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Universal Parenting Products

Universal Parenting Products for those parents, or want-to-be parents, that suffer from a debilitating chronic disease or disability.

Photo of Jillian N.
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In no more than 3 sentences, please tell us who your idea is designed for and how it reimagines the new life experience.

There is a design gap in parenting products for the atypical parent or child. Yet, it is human nature to procreate, and most due, despite their exceptional status. Having peace of mind that there is something out there to help you get through the beginning years of parenting with a handicap would be huge!

Universal Parenting Product Design is a topic I've wanted to expand on since I was a college design student.  I've always had the notion that if a product is designed well to help someone with a particular disability, it can help those with no disability.  And when it comes to parenting, everyone could use an extra hand, literally.  

Since the launch of this challenge I've been hesitant to share some of my design ideas.  Partly because universal product design doesn't necessarily lend itself to the specifics of this challenge, and partly because there is no longer any legal protection to publicly display an idea that isn't patented.  But I want to change the world.  A lofty idea simply stated, but it's true.  And to change the world you need help, so I hope IDEO, Sutter Health and UBC likes what I'm sharing!

There is a design gap in parenting products for the atypical parent or child.  Yet, it is human nature to procreate, and most due, despite their exceptional status.  Having peace of mind that there is something out there to help you get through the beginning years of parenting with a handicap could be huge! 

Many handicap products are unattractive and advertise the disability.  These products are frequently designed by the doctor or therapist helping the patients and are rarely well funded.  I think there is a sense that if you're suffering from a handicap, that you should be grateful for what you haven't loss; you know, look on the bright side!  But that's nonsense.  Those that are handicap or suffering from a chronic disease deserve and want beautiful, trendy designs just like the rest of us. The product ideas that I'm sharing are specifically for helping an upper-extremity handicap; for example a loss of an arm or hand (meningitis, combat, accident) or severe arthritis (aging population, severe rheumatoid arthritis), so it's just the tip of the iceberg.  However, the concept I hope to get across is the need for universal parenting product design and the interesting and helpful ideas that can be properly created if design research funding was provided.

This research can help address where the need is the greatest and for whom.  This can include those with physical disabilities, along with mental - including PTSD and post-partum depression.

The conceptual products shown were designed by addressing how one without the use of a limb or hand might preform a standard parenting task; for example changing a diaper, transporting a child or giving a bath, without loosing a sense of control, enjoyment or independence.

At what stage is your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Response from parents, or grown children of handicap parents, regarding need and want is crucial. Then once a safe prototypes are created, testing with real families is necessary. A good place to start is with the local VA hospital, who might be able to put me in touch with the families in need.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

How can I go about gaining the funding needed to start? The goal is to create universal products, available on the market to all consumers. Product manufacturing and distribution can be a hugely expensive undertaking - where do I find the cash to do this right and well?

Tell us about your work experience:

Masters of Interior Architecture & Product Design. Actively work in the design field and a design entrepreneur focusing on parenting products.

This idea emerged from...

  • An Individual

Are you an expecting, new, or experienced mom?

  • no

Are you a healthcare practitioner?

  • no

Are you a current employee of UCB Pharmaceuticals or Sutter Health?

  • no


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jillian N. ,

Great to see you in the Challenge! Could you share potential next steps to develop your Idea, or resources you would find helpful to begin to prototype your Idea?

I'm wondering which of these user personas aligns most with your concept ?

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Jillian N.

Hi Lauren,

In regards to the user profiles for this challenge, Mother's Suffering from Chronic Diseases most closely aligns. The persona offered by IDEO touches on a number of important key elements for these women, one of which is a sense of security. "‘Whether or not I can get pregnant?’ is layered with additional fears around ‘Whether or not I should get pregnant?’ because of their condition."

The response I am building on addresses the poor outlook mothers have by looking for ways to offer and reassure that sense of security. Clearly healthcare professionals are first and foremost for that role, but that's a whole other issue (and one I offer a solution to in my submission, Dawn to Dusk Clinic). By taking a fresh, new look at what is involved in parenting and what products all parents actively use, I feel there are opportunities to address some of this loss of security by creating/recreating parenting products to help aid the parent. For these mothers, and their families, knowing there are products readily available that help make parenting easier, will help address the "should I get pregnant" fear.

In moving forward, I intend to reach out and learn from these families. Gaining more knowledge and a firm grasp on need is crucial, and to do that I need to find a way to 1.) Narrow down my users (many that suffer from different ailments may benefit from the same solution) and 2.) Better understand where need is greatest in parenting and why. Tapping into the healthcare profession and social media will likely put me in touch with the correct clientele. From there, having a select group to run tests/clinicals will be necessary in prototyping.

To begin to test ideas, rough prototypes can accomplish a lot in the beginning, but I'm sure that weight and material will be crucial to the users, so refined prototyping is going to be a key element. This is where I begin to feel lost. Unless funding is provided, due to the high costs in creating good prototypes, I'm not entirely sure how to secure the resources needed. I would love feedback in this area!

If research funding can be secured, I am confident that we can start small enough and create market worthy products to help seed larger ideas.

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