Towards inclusive design through constraint modelling and computer aided ergonomics
Inclusive Design is a concept that aims to design mainstream products, workplaces, services and facilities that can accommodate or `include' a maximum percentage of the user population disregarding their age and/or disabilities. The main idea behind Inclusive Design is to design products or workplaces that can be used by all including older, disabled and able-bodied people rather than having two streams of products. There are many social and economic benefits in achieving inclusivity in design such as improving the life of the elderly and disabled people and reaping the profits from the market that extend because of the increased number of consumers. Origins of Inclusive Design go back several decades and are due mainly to the demographic, legislative, and social as well as economic changes that occurred during this period. This research was conducted to study methods of implementation of Inclusive Design. The research has shown that although there are many advantages of designing for the whole population, designers are reluctant to do this mainly because of the enormity of the task which can take up a huge amount of time and man-power. One solution to this can be found in design tools, which provide the designers with a means to achieve inclusivity relatively quickly and with less effort. Therefore this research has developed a new methodology and a computer tool to assist designers to implement Inclusive Design with ease. The methodology discussed in this thesis incorporates the physical characteristics of the users of products and workplaces in the design process in order to search for better configurations for designs. It is shown here that by considering the physical aspects of the individual users such as their anthropometry, joint constraints, capabilities etc in a design optimisation process, the percentage user accommodation of a product can be maximised. In order to achieve this, ergonomics analysis methods and mathematical methods were used to interpret user characteristics in terms of design variables and then constraint modelling was used to model the whole design problem and search for better solutions within the constraints of the design. To implement this method a software tool called SHIELDS was created. This tool utilises the capabilities of four other pieces of software to accomplish the design synthesis. These are HADRIAN and SAMMIE for ergonomics evaluation and MATHEMATICA for mathematical functions fitting and SWORDS constraint modeller to find best solutions. Two case studies were performed to test the functionality of the software and the validity of the methodology developed.