BENGALURU: Wearable technology and clothing, such as smartwatches, health tracking bracelets and electric jackets, are becoming increasingly popular with the masses. However, not many in India have explored the possibilities of using such tech and garments to help the differently-abled.
On the first day of Bengaluru Design Week on Saturday, students from the National Institute of Design, Bangalore (NID), spoke to CE about the work they are doing to take forward this cause in a big way. A sensor-enabled shoulder pad that helps a visually-impaired or hearing-impaired person navigate his surroundings and the obstructions in his path, is one such design that Namita Verma, a NID student, is currently working on. “Sensors are put on the shoulder pads, which are designed like any shoulder pad used in blazers or other garments. If a person walks from any direction towards someone wearing these special pads, the sensors in the pad will pick up the motion and then vibrate in that particular direction,” says Namita.
The design is being conceptualised under the Universal Design course that Namita is studying. “This project, as part of the course, has a larger — to work on designs that increase accessibility of the differently-abled and promote their inclusion into the mainstream,” she adds.
VS Ravishanker, discipline lead, Universal Design, NID-Bangalore, says that this course is the only of its kind in India. He highlights another design concept of ‘accessible garments’ that can enable a visually-challenged person.
“We had a student who has worked on garments that are accessible to the visually-challenged who want to shop independently. The garments have accessible tags that have information about colour or texture. Another student has worked on microwaves that can be operated by the visually-challenged. Some of the projects have been sent for design registration (intellectual property),” he adds.
The idea, Ravishanker says, is maintaining the dignity of people. This idea, however, is not restricted to only the differently-abled, but also extends to the poor or illiterate. “We are working on report cards for children who come from poor backgrounds — say, government school children whose parents are illiterate and come from a low-income group. We’re designing report cards that address literacy issues. We are looking at products that can have a positive impact, and want to push big business heads to look into accessible, inclusion-friendly designs in everyday products,” says Ravishankar