Mapping 50 Years of Design for Childhood Mobility

Published: 19-05-2020| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/sfwzw25tjn.1
Cara O'Sullivan,
Farnaz Nickpour


Contributions to the field of inclusive paediatric mobility (IPM) design between 1970 and 2020 are recorded chronologically across five categories of Theoretical (T), Methodological (M), Empirical (E), Interventional contributions which made it to market or were commercialised (I.1), and Interventional contributions which remained as concepts or prototypes (I.2). In total, 56 results were deemed eligible for inclusion from electronic database searches. These findings were shared with eight IPM experts (four paediatric therapists and four paediatric mobility designers, each with a minimum of 15 years of experience in their field) for review and input, leading to a further five contributions being included, bringing the total number of contributions deemed eligible for inclusion to 61. Out of the total, 59% (N=36) were classified as interventional, 23% (N=14) were classified as theoretical, 11% (N=7) were classified as empirical, and 7% (N=4) were classified as methodological. Top reasons for excluding contributions included: focus on passive mobility only, focus on adult mobility only, interventional designs with no evidence of intention to commercialise or implement, contributions lacking novelty or classed as ‘copycat’, and contributions which display only incremental updates or improvements to existing contributions. The majority of the recorded contributions came from North America, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia. Of the 36 recorded interventional design contributions, 26 reached commercialisation (I.1) and 10 remained at concept or prototype stage (I.2). Of the 26 that reached commercialisation, at least six were discontinued in less than 15 years. Seven out of the 10 interventional contributions which remained as concepts, were created by design or engineering university students with limited industry experience. Although many of the interventional contributions involved stakeholders from other disciplines throughout the design process, 30 out of 36 were led by stakeholders from Design or Engineering, with the exception of four led by Occupational Therapists, one led by a Kinesiologist, and one founded by a philanthropist. None of the 36 interventional contributions could be classified under ‘user aware approach’ (see section 2.1), whilst seven were approached with a ‘modular/customisable approach’ and the remaining 29 were designed with a ‘specialist assistive approach’. Seemingly user-aware IPM interventions such as go-karts and tricycles (which are serendipitously usable by some children with mobility disabilities) were excluded from the review due to being developed without consideration for mobility-impaired children in mind. Of the 36 interventional contributions, 21 were designs of power chairs, seven were walking aids or exoskeletons, and eight were other products e.g. self-powered mobility devices and pieces of technology.


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The data collection search protocol centred around electronic database searches to identify evidence of contributions made between 1970 and 2020. Search databases included: Compendex, Scopus, PubMed, Web of Science, Science Direct, Google Scholar, Google Images, and Open Grey. Each result was reviewed according to the criteria outlined below. INCLUSION CRITERIA: Contributions post 1970 (IPM design field emerges around this time). Functionally novel or significant designerly contributions (i.e. excluding incremental updates and copycat products) Contributions relating to or developed for at least one child aged ≤18 years with a mobility disability. The development of technologies and gadgets specifically for the IPM field. EXCLUSION CRITERIA Interventions which do not provide a means of independent mobility (e.g passive mobility via attendant). Contributions which lack record of the context of their creation. Studies involving only non-disabled/fully mobile children or adults. Non-English language publications (with no English translation available). Search strings were a combination of keywords relating to childhood, mobility, and design categories as follows: "childhood" OR "child" OR "children" OR "early years" OR "infants" OR "paediatric" OR "pediatric" AND "mobility" OR "assistive mobility" OR "power mobility" OR "powered mobility" OR "power chair" OR "power wheelchair(s)" OR "power wheelchair(s)" OR “wheelchair(s)” OR "walking aid" OR "exoskeleton" AND "design" OR "designing" OR "development" OR "implementation" AND "disability" OR "impairment". To capture grey literature, unpublished fieldwork, and artefacts, the initial review findings were then shared with a total of eight IPM experts (four paediatric therapists and four paediatric mobility designers, each with a minimum of 15 years of experience in their field) who were asked to share any further known contributions.