Core Principles of Design
In all of his powerchair designs Dan follows a set of core principles. These principles serve to ensure that the users, their needs and their safety are always in the focus during the development. The core principles which express the fundamental motivations are:
In more words ...
1) The purpose of mobility is to achieve a person's goals and aims, it is not an end in itself.
Users of powerchairs should always be involved in the design process, and their views are essential.
2) For someone in need of powered mobility, a good powerchair becomes an extension of that person's body.
If at all possible, one piece of equipment should be enough to cope with most of the circumstances of daily life. This is why the Dragon is designed both to take on rough ground and to be compact and agile enough for tight spaces indoors.
3) Each person is an individual, so powerchair design should, where possible, be pleomorphic, in order to cater for specific needs.
Hence the Dragon is designed to be the first in a range of powerbases and is finished and equipped according to individual customer requirements.
More specifically this means ...
Reliability is key, as any breakdown feels to the user like a serious bodily injury, and is just as incapacitating.
Technical failures must be remedied as quickly and simply as possible. Immediate "first aid" should be available urgently, followed by expert repair and restoration. The design of equipment should therefore take into account how this is to be achieved in ordinary home / work / leisure / outdoor situations, and its implications for helpers and for the user.
The powerchair should be as unobtrusive as possible. It should enhance, not distract from, the user's personality. It is the person using it who should be in the forefront of other people's consciousness!
Hence the main parts of a Dragon sit behind the driving seat, and the seating systems used should be those which encumber the user as little as possible, while keeping him or her stable and well-supported with good posture. In that the chassis can never be totally invisible however, it should, like clothing, be styled as much as possible to suit the user.
The user's centre of perception should be as near as possible to the centre of motion of the powerchair.
This allows movement to be as instinctive and natural as possible. This can be the key to the successful use of powered mobility aids by very young or learning disabled (especially non-verbal) children.
There is no point enabling a person to move independently without also enabling them to interact with their environment when they have moved!
The seating and controls of a powerchair should take account of individual needs in this respect. This is also the thinking behind seat and stand elevation, allowing access in three dimensions, and links with the principle above, about putting the user in front of the machinery. Controls should be positioned to leave maximum freedom of function while in motion.
Good therapeutic practice can be combined with high mobility.
Seating and standing options must always reflect attention to good posture and prevention of deformity. Professional advice from therapists is always to be welcomed, bearing in mind the fact that mobile seating often has different design-criteria than static posture support. Individual customisation should always be offered. But there will always be a trade-off between physiological and functional priorities, in which the user or parent should have the final say after proper assessment.
A powerchair has to fit into an individual person's life situation, which will probably involve other forms of assistance.
Its design should therefore take into account the needs of assistants who may need to handle and service it.
Safety considerations should be uppermost, particularly with young children.
The attitude taken should not be to protect users from all risk by limiting their freedom of choice or behaviour, but to make sure that the equipment works as it is designed to do at all times and that any failures are fail-safe. The designer should take account of dangers to users and others inherent in the use of the equipment, but assume that children are supervised to the appropriate extent for their age and ability, and that adults, once properly trained and informed about the limits of use, are responsible for themselves in the way they choose to use the equipment.
In the case of young children, mobility can be the key which unlocks all other kinds of childhood development, which will help to establish positive thinking and successful engagement with the world around. A balance must be kept between freedom and discipline, as with all children.
e.g. Behavioural boundaries need to be taught to disabled children just as they might be to able-bodied children of the same age, and the ability to overstep those boundaries should have consequences comparable to (and not exceeding) those which might apply to an able-bodied child. The design and use of options such as high performance programming or attendant controls should be considered carefully in this respect, depending on the context of use and the limits to the individual child's understanding and ability.