Seating for rest and rehabilitation, design research and practice
This research examines the principles of seating and their relationship to both the older
adult and physically challenged populations. Initially the research focused on seating
inadequacies, postural and comfort related issues that both populations have with their
current seat. It identified the adverse medical effects and cost implications of pressure sores,
temperature, blood flow and moisture on the human body. It also established if one style
and size of chair could accommodate both populations and what features should be
adjustable and which should be fixed. New knowledge is a feature of several research
Both populations participated in the design process thereby identifYing solutions, ideas and
requirements that came directly from the end-user. A questionnaire and focus group were
conducted with participants from the Birmingham 'Thousand Elders' to determine both
populations' seating requirements
The reSUlting design criteria were used to develop a fully adjustable seating measurement
rig. Participants were used to evaluate the rig and detennine the 'correct' seating
dimensions for older adults and important aspects of time and comfort.
One of the outcomes of the study was that the rig could also be used as a prescription tool
in a domestic furniture outlet when designing or specifying seating for older adults and
physically challenged people.
The lessons learnt from the above were used to develop a three-phase design methodology
and a range of seat comfort design tools. These emphasise the importance of user
participation throughout the whole design process. They also ensure that quality and
robustness are included throughout the design and development process. Quality Functional
Deployment matrices and a Parameter-Diagram were employed to detennine the
relationship between the user's requirements and design specifications.
Research outcomes included the design of a lounge chair proposal for both populations and
an activity unit for use in institutional settings. The final proposals incorporate customer
requirements, enhanced comfort, postural support, pressure relief, ease of ingress/egress,
marketing, legislation and production/cost constraints. They also take into account the
psychological and behavioural impact that the design has on the user.
Other outcomes included chair specification criteria, which can be used by occupational
therapists, physiotherapists or N.H.S when selecting a chair for an individual.