Domain: Research

Themes: Assistive & Accessible Technology, Inclusive Design

Powered mobility for young children everywhere

Location: Kenya, India

Young children everywhere need to be mobile - to be able to explore their world, make choices about what they want to do, who they want to play with, and where they want to go. Not having independent mobility limits their ability to explore and learn about the world, how it works and who lives there. It means they don't get to play with their friends, or play in a puddle. In time this can lead to frustration and children losing the motivation to explore, leaving it to others to make their decisions for them. This is called learned helplessness and it is very difficult to undo. Some children find walking or using a manual wheelchair too difficult, especially in places where the environment is more difficult, so they need something with power to be able to get around.

The first stage in our project to create affordable powered mobility for children everywhere, is to test an existing device in low and middle-income countries. We will evaluate how well it performs in everyday use by using a combination of robust sensors to measure how they are used, and qualitative methods to find out what children, families, educators and healthcare professionals think of them.

We will learn a great deal very quickly about what is right about current designs, but also what needs to change. This early evaluation will provide the foundations for a subsequent project to build powered mobility technology for young children everywhere: technology that works well in challenging environments, is fun to use, and can be afforded by the families that need it.