Just walk…

Just walk…

For various reasons I won't go into, I'm in pain a lot, and it often restricts my abilities. Sometimes a lot. The rest of the time I'm fairly fit and healthy, but it means I still spend a lot of time struggling with fairly mundane tasks and have learned a fair amount about the design of things as a result.

It's useful knowledge, if hard-earned. Everyone should have some feel for it. Trouble is, you can't just go round hitting people's hands with hammers so they understand why (say) round doorknobs are an evil in the world and must be banned.

What's really bothered me most recently was having a back and leg injury. Walking was painful and I wasn't as steady as I normally am, so stairs were not only horribly painful but had that added excitement of possible imminent death.

I was in Paddington Station, and to get to the Hammersmith & City line if you can't use the stairs you have to walk down the entire length of the platform to the concourse, then come up another platform to a ramp. If walking is already painful, it becomes quite a trial.

And then there's that ramp.

Putting a ramp near some steps theoretically solves the problem of wheelchair access but you usually have to be quite physically fit to get up them, and to have enough physical control of the brakes when coming down them. If you're not in a wheelchair then using the steps still might not be possible but walking up a sloping surface is even less of an option, with all the requirements of flexible ankle and knee joints, good balance, coordination and so on.

So often it seems there's an assumption you can just walk, you can just this or just that.

You can use both hands, or pick something up using only one hand, or not spill something, you can just listen for instructions, you can just read the sign, you can just open the door.

So how to get all this across in a proper actual feel what the problem is kind of way?

There are two things you need to simulate:

There's the task side of things, where there's a thing to be done, say, 'open a door' and various affordances available, from automatic openers through regular handles to something stupid and fiddly.

The other thing is to induce discomfort relative to that someone else might feel using those things.

I wondered about using VR for the first bit. It seems like a practical option now, at last. I'm not sure precisely how good the various controllers are, specifically the glove things, but maybe they're good enough now.

For the other bit I wondered about using a TENS machine. They're usually used to relieve pain and they can work quite well, but they're often quite uncomfortable to use in themselves. They're administering a mild electric shock after all, and it can sting. So nothing harmful, but definitely a make it stop sensation.

I wonder if that would be enough?