Enviable Assistive Chair

Industrial Design


Designed for people with injury, surgery, or disability to have a better experience of sitting down and standing up.


We noticed whether it is from an injury, surgery or disability getting up from a sitting position can be challenging for people. Therefore, we started the research on whether people are suffering from this problem. According to the result of media scan and an online survey, almost every person with disabilities is suffering from getting up from a chair, and they often want to maintain their independence. Then we did individual interviews with people who have been experienced this problem and empathic modeling to help us understand their thoughts, feelings, and techniques they are using to make this process easier. 
After research, we started our storyboarding and ideations. Each of us scored all the ideations we have by key values, and then the one with the highest score is “Available Assistive Chair .” We made a rough prototype and test on the feasibility and how people feel about it, and made improvement to it. 
Our product “Enviable Assistive Chair” looks like a normal chair and when you need help you can put the spring in the back on to the hook, then it could be used as a standing assistive chair. 

ARTD299 Disability + Relevant Design

Researcher, Storyboarding, Ideations, Prototyper, Woodworking

Michael Hansen
Brittany Holsman
Timothy Ng

Mar, 2016 - May 2016

Solidworks, Keyshot, Illustrator, Photoshop


This is a course project and the time is limited in about three months. The course focuses on design for people with disabilities; therefore, we were divided into groups of four and did the project from brainstorming to the final prototype. On the other hand, this course is cross disciplines, and many of our classmates are from different majors. Therefore, our group is a combination of industrial designers and engineers.



Whether It is from an injury, surgery or disability we have noticed getting up from  chair can be challenging for people. It is much harder than we thought for  person with an impairment to stand up or sit down. We want to design a chair that will reduce their pain and discomfort.


Research Goal
In order to find out whether people with injury, disabilities, or surgery are suffering from this problem, we researched by using media scan, online survey, empathic modeling, and an individual semi-structured interview.

Semi-structured interviews are conducted to interview elder people, and we each went back home and did interviews with our grandparents. Picture shown is one of my teammates with her grandfather. The main interview questions are:

1. Have you ever experienced any surgery, injury or disabilities that limited your moving abilities?
2. Have you ever experienced difficulties on standing up from a sitting position?
3. If so, what is the most difficult part of it?
4. How do you feel about it?
5. Is it changed your lifestyle?
6. Did you use any methods or products to prevent hurts?
7. If there is a product to help you standing up what kind of function or characteristics you hope it could have?

Insights from semi-structured interviews:
1. Joints and muscles’ functionality is decreasing while human getting older. All of our interview participants have experienced different levels of difficulties from standing up from a sitting position.
2. Most of them choose to suffer from it instead of grabbing a walking stick, asking others for help or eating painkiller medicine. Walking stick may give them a feeling of they are getting old. On the other hand, they often do not want to ask their kids to help them stand up. 

Media Scan
We conducted a media scan to investigate how many persons in the U.S. are influenced by surgeries, injuries, and disabilities. This can help us evaluate the significance of our topic and to find out who are our target users. We collected many important data, and they could be found underneath. 

51.4 million Inpatient Surgeries happen
719,000 knee replacements
332,000 hip replacements

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2010)

Today, one in seven Americans are over 65.
In 2031 one in every five Americans will be over 65.

(Thompson, D. (2014, March 06). America Is About to Get Really Old. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/america-is-about-to-get-really-really-old/361814/)

We also did a media scan on elder people’s thinking and feeling about their functional capacity. And we noticed that older adults want to maintain their independence. 

We gained the following insights from the media scan:
    1. There is a significantly large group of people are suffering from surgeries, disabilities, and the functional capacity decrease by aging problems. 
    2. People with disabilities do not want others to think they are different. And the most important aspect of aging adults is to maintain independence.

We conducted a online survey and there were 58 persons, which there are about 71% females and 29%of males, paticipated. 

Empathic Modeling

We used many different methods to experienced people with different kind of injury, disabilities or surgery. First of all, each of us experienced the process of standing up, in order to figure out which part of the muscles and joints we are using to stand up. 

Then we used materials to limit part of our moving ability. For example, Michael used the tripod as the walking stick to feel the older people’s feeling. On the other hand, we also observed and paid attention to which part of the muscles we were used to standing up.

Brittany was trying to stand up with an extremely heavy bag to mimic the feeling of people with back pain. I used the masking tape to tape my knee to limit my knee’s movement. I literally could not bend my knee after I taped it. From this experience, I noticed if I limited my knee’s moving ability then I have to use my back or thigh’s muscles much more than before. However, it still feels really weird because this is not the way that I have been used to.

Empathic modeling helps us to put ourselves in people with disabilities’ shoes. We noticed that we had to use our muscle of thigh and joint of the ankle to stand up. And another important point is when we wanted to stand up from a sitting position most of us leaned forward to start the process. During the process, I noticed if I had disabilities I must be the type of person who did not want to use any walking stick or body support because I did not want others looking at me as I have a disability.


Concept Elimination
In the ideation part, we did a concept drawing individually and talked about them together when we met. The sketches underneath are the ones that we liked the most.

We gained insights from possible future users interview and professional interviews with our professors. 

1. Although it is helpful for us to open our mind and had ideations on so many types of products, it would be better if we could start to make a choice and focus on one particular product that we liked. After group evaluation and votes, we decided to focus on the chair. 
2. The products that did not have a different look can be accepted by most of the particular users. Older adults did not like the ideations such as the “standing toilet,” which made them feel like they needed time to get used to it.

The storyboard indicates an old man with back pain and knee surgery. He wants to look for a chair to read the newspaper. And then he sees the enviable assistive chair. He decides to try it, and he notices the chair is comfortable. After he finishes reading and wants to stand up from the chair, the chair gives him the power to help him stand up.

Rough Prototype & Problem Solving

When we did our rough prototype, we were facing a lot of problems. The initial idea for this product is to help people with disabilities standing up from a seated position by popping the armrest up to let the raise the person up. However, the reality is so different from the sketch. The handle needs a lot mechanism or technologies to work, but we want to keep it simple. By having a consultation with the woodshop assistant, we learned a lot about the mechanism of the chair. Then we had a group meeting and decided to use long armrests so that another person can raise you.

During the class critics, our classmates and professors gave us a lot of feedback, and we gained a lot of helpful suggestions from them:

1. In our research, we mentioned that it was essential to make the product looks normal. But this product makes people feel like a disability. On the other hand, this product still needed other people’s help, so it did not solve the question. Therefore, we decided to figure out another mechanism to hold people up instead of using the armrest.
2. The extended armrest takes a lot of spaces, which may be too large to put in people’s house.
3. It needs some more improvement on the appearance design.

Mid-fedelity Prototype Making

For the mid-fidelity prototype, we conveyed the suggestions from our rough prototype, and we change the mechanism of how it works. Instead of the long armrest, we put a spring on the back of the chair, and the spring can pop you up. And when you did not need it, you can simply take the spring off the hook, and the chair could be used as a normal chair. 

Problems and insights:
The shape of the chair is not supportive enough, and when a person sits on there it always cracks and that is the reason why we added another piece of wood on to the side of the chair. However, an extra piece of wood is not aesthetic. Therefore, we did more sketches and ideations on the shape of the chair to make it supportive and aesthetic.

Final Prototype Making

We wanted to re-design the shape and appearance of the chair. At this point, we did more research on the market trend of the chair’s appearance, such as the wood color and pattern. And started to make the final model.


Final Outcome

The final is made by wood, foam, and facbric. We conveyed the result from market research and paint the wood part with a dark walnut wood paint. The spring at the back has two options. One is to put on and use the chair as a standing assistive chair, while the other option is to take the spring off the hook and it could be used as a normal chair. 

Criques from class:

“A really nice design. If it is in the market, I will buy it. ”
“It wouldn’t be embarrassing to use if it looked like a normal chair!”
“A special chair, no matter how it looks like, is still a special chair for me due to my misfortune. Root problem is not covering up how the chair looks,it’s how people’s minds are moulded”
“I like the design of the armrest part, nice design and nice woodworking.”

The final prototype was tested in class that it could be used for real life, and my teammate’s grandfather had it after the critique. 

How It Works

By simply adding a spring to the back of the chair, the chair has the ability to give users power to help them standing up. The spring can be take off from the hook, then it could be used as a normal chair.

Project Takeaway

This project is the first time for me to work in groups with engineers. This experience made me understand the importance of listening to others, the importance of effective communication, and the significance that cultural difference played in design. As for the project, I learned a lot on woodworking and problem-solving. I hoped I could use those abilities in the future.