Scalable Heuristics for Assistive Design and Elaboration

An increasing number of designers wish to conceive innovative products or services for older adults with special needs and family caregivers. Both groups have distinct but overlapping needs that require good understanding and close working between designers and these intended end users. However, little practical knowledge is available in efficient and attractive ways to integrate them into the design process.

The DATcares (Designing Assistive Technology that cares) workshop that took place at the Schlegel-UW Reasearch Institute for Aging in June 2017 thanks to funding received from AGE WELL, CIHR, SCA and QRNA, highlighted this problem and introduced an innovative bottom-up approach that showed how relevant design principles could be identified by a transdisciplinar effort gathering caregivers, researchers, occupational therapists, designers, technology developers, industries and policy makers. Following these findings, it was decided to replicate this approach at a bigger scale in order to share successful design principles throughout the design community.

The aim of the SHADE project is to define, disseminate and support a set of design heuristics and user-centered methods to globally improve the quality of assistive technologies by encompassing caregivers' and care-recipients' holistic needs to bring:

  • a positive impact on the care recipient / family caregiver relationship,
  • a better support for the fundamental needs of the family caregiver in terms of quality of life, well-being and various occupational roles (i.e. useful activities such as employment, leisure and social interaction);
  • a better involvement of the care recipient and the family caregiver in the design process

In order to help project designers to better solve these problems, we propose to define reference principles that can guide designers and developers in the creation of a products and services that better support the fundamental needs of both caregivers and care-recipients and their relationships.

Heuristics will be conveyed to industry and practitioners through a deck of cards and a reference booklet, providing definitions of design principles, best practices and concrete examples. These products will be downloadable for free and premium printed versions will be available at production cost.

For more information about the project, read this overview document.

Members of the team

Principal investigator

Hélène Pigot, Domus laboratory, Université de Sherbrooke

Affiliated researchers

Sylvain Giroux, Domus laboratory, Université de Sherbrooke

Jennifer Boger, University of Waterloo

Arlene Astell, University of Toronto

Nathalie Bonnardel, Université Aix-Marseille

Research professionals

Maxime Parenteau, Technological coordinator, Domus laboratory, Université de Sherbrooke

Marie-Michèle Rosa-Fortin, Administrative coordinator, Domus laboratory, Université de Sherbrooke

Ariane Tessier, Administrative coordinator, Domus laboratory, Université de Sherbrooke

Célia Lignon, Designer, Domus laboratory, Université de Sherbrooke

Michelle Plante, Ergothérapeute, Université de Montréal

Postodoctoral fellow

Damien Lockner, Domus laboratory, Université de Sherbrooke


Josie D'Avernas, Executive director, Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging


Ron Beleno, Proche-aidant

Fabrice Pincin, Designer, Président de Marseille Design Méditérannée

Yves Voglaire, Designer, Président de DesignEnjeu


To come