Sharifa’s Workstation

Our client, Sharifa, wanted a custom bed desk that enabled her to work from home. She was using blankets as elbow support for her muscular dystrophy and wanted an alternative that didn’t generate so much heat. We used human-centered design to create a product that met her needs, working from low to high fidelity prototypes.

Course: Developing Assistive Technology

Brief: Student groups work with outside partners to build a prototype that meets the user’s needs. Multiple iterations of the prototypes should be expected following feedback and user testing.

Role: experience design, design research, fabrication, project management

Documentation: Our project blog can be found here.

Recipient of the NYU Prototyping Grant and showcased at the ITP Winter Show 2018


Sharifa’s Criteria:

  • Thin and lightweight

  • Doesn’t rest on lap or legs

  • Doesn’t generate heat

  • Wipeable for eating

  • Keeps her elbows at a comfortable height

  • For independent eating, needs bowl closer to face

  • Needs bowl held in place

  • Padding under elbows that keeps them in place

  • Needs her tools within reach

  • Nothing on surface that irritates her skin

  • Matches the rest of her furniture

Our Solutions:

  • 1/2 inch plywood

  • Custom height and curvature of desk shape

  • No electrical elements

  • Polyurethane wood finish

  • Low fidelity prototyping to test for optimal height measurement

  • Raised, non-slip dish holder that counterbalances angle of desk

  • Magnets keep the dish holder secure on the table

  • Non-slip, removable, machine washable elbow padding

  • Rubber stripping to hold her pencil and laptop in place

  • Countersunk screws, rounded and sanded edges

  • Dark cherry wood stain