Adaptive Products

University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is improving athletic wear design for adaptive athletes thanks to a unique curriculum launched as part of their Product Design Program.

Photos courtesy of University of Oregon

Adaptive Products is a user-based studio class, designed to challenge students’ problem-solving skills and foster their capacity for empathy. The class faces many difficult and uncommon constraints, working alongside athletes with disabilities. Students create innovative product designs that enable athletes to manifest their sports potential. The course is a ten-week studio experience that includes all aspects of product creation from user-centric insights, product design creation, and final presentation.

The course began as a collaboration among Nike, Inc. designers working as adjunct instructors and UO faculty members. Wilson Smith, Design Director at Nike and adjunct instructor for the class, leads students through the adaptive design process, pushing them to think of each challenge in new ways while keeping the end-user experience in mind. They collaborate directly with the athletes for which they design for, creating a dialogue that allows for modifications, prototype development, and designs that enable athletes to compete at their highest potential with greater safety and comfort. They work with athletes ranging from wheelchair fencers and double-leg amputee snowboarders to paralyzed competitive rowers. The design course not only improves the athletic experience for people of all abilities; it brings innovative design to the adaptive athlete communities while providing students with a real-world look at inclusive product design processes.

Seth McBride
Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby, Team USA

In 2016, the University of Oregon’s Adaptive Products class focused on creating gear for wheelchair rugby, working closely with members of the Portland Pounders and the USA Wheelchair Rugby team. Student Becky Chierichetti collaborated closely with world-class rugby wheelchair athlete Seth McBride. Seth is on the U.S. National Paralympics wheelchair rugby team and provided ideas and feedback to the design team. Becky’s final glove design enables Seth to both pull up and push down on wheelchair wheels, a necessity for those with varying degrees of locomotion torso control. They are made of a stretchy understructure fabric that is self-sealing and contains an exoskeleton for form and stability. The lobster claw finger design allows for easier manipulation, and its easy access zipper and ergonomic pulls are designed for ease.