Blackwood Design Awards 2015: Transformers! Accessible buses in disguise...

The second entry for 2015’s Blackwood Design Award is an adaptable bus interior that transforms depending upon the situation and comes courtesy of Matilda Swanson from Aberdeen.

Matilda is a third year Product Design Engineering student and her entry is a called SAT. It is designed to improve inclusiveness and confidence for wheelchair users by eliminating social prejudices.

Put simply, the seats within the bus can be folded up or down, and can also be moved sideways, meaning space is easy to create should there be the need.

Bespoken caught up with Matilda to find out a little bit more about her design and the thoughts behind it…

What was the reason behind choosing disabled access on buses as a problem to address compared to say trains or planes?

Public transport plays a major role in our society and affects many people’s lives. I chose to focus on buses as they are the most used form of urban public transport. With my design I want to improve the users’ experience of daily activities such as travelling around a city, as opposed to a less frequent activity such as flying. I wanted to improve the experience for as many people as possible; however, my design has potential to be implemented on other forms of public transport.

To what extent did your experiencing time in a wheelchair help inform you of the problems faced by the disabled?

I believe empathic modelling as a wheelchair user made me more aware of certain issues and problems. It emphasised how many problems wheelchair users face on a daily basis; experiencing that inspired and motivated me to carry out this project, it also enabled me to identify design opportunities. However, experiencing this was only beneficial to a certain extent; I got to feel the physical struggle a wheelchair user faces but since I am not a wheelchair user, I couldn’t fully engage with what a wheelchair user feels mentally. The research method I found most insightful was talking to wheelchair users and understanding their problems and emotions.

How did your experience compare to your expectations of how it may be?

I expected it to be a challenging experience; however I think I underestimated how difficult it is. I discovered problems that I would have never thought of before and it really emphasised the lack of universal design in our society and how cities are poorly designed in respect to wheelchair accessibility. I strongly believe that this poor design needs to be changed and we need to take responsibility to include as many user groups as possible.

How important was bespoken in helping shape your design process?

Bespoken has played a huge part in my design process; the forum allowed me to gain valuable insights from wheelchair users and understand what real life problems they face. It allowed me to ask questions and find out their thoughts and find out what a wheelchair user feels both physically and mentally. It allowed me to find out what the major problems are but also was interesting to learn about each individual’s problems.

What would winning the design award mean for you and your design?

Winning the award would be a huge success for me and my design. I hope that it would help raise awareness and increase peoples understand of struggles wheelchair users face on a daily basis on public transport. I would like my design to inspire other designers to consider all user groups and design with the principles of universal design. My aim with this design is to influence actions and changes to happen to accommodate wheelchair users.

Do you think there is any possibility of your design could one day be implemented and is that aim?

I think my design is developed to enough detail and is a realistic solution, therefore has potential to be implemented. The aim with this design is to improve the users experience and to make public transport more accessible for everyone. Its aim is also to raise awareness and encourage society to be more inclusive. If this design is seen as the most effective and efficient way to solve this problem then implementing it could definitely be an option.

If that were to happen, what would that mean for you and your potential career future?

I would see implementing this as a huge personal success. I would also be extremely proud to think that I am doing something to improve someone’s experience and their life. It would perhaps allow me in the future to continue designing for minorities and improving their lives. It would give me the potential to raise awareness of other people’s struggles and perhaps this could be applied to other aspects of life.

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brilliant article, very informative. Great idea for making buses more sccessible, good luck with the design, obviously plenty homework went into this idea 

It would be even better if bold, innovative ideas were readily embraced to improve people's lives.

Well done hope you win & that it comes to fruition


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