How people with autism perceive the world? An Empathy Bridge for Autism is a toolkit that allows people to experience the visual, auditory and speech differences that come with autism, advocating greater understanding and empathy for people with Autism. Made of sustainable materials, the toolkit includes a headset, two ear pieces and six lollipops. Wearing them all at once, users can feel the world the way they do. While autism is a complex condition, this is a remarkable first step in understanding the problems faced with verbal and non-verbal communication on a very human scale.
My project has a goal to show that autistic people are just as 'normal' as we are, but have symptoms that make them unable to live 'normal'. What make autistic people and their families suffer are not only the symptoms themselves, but also the indifference, the misunderstanding, and the frigid glance of others. I believe my project can gradually change those people to be compassionate, to understand and to care for autistic people.
An Empathy Bridge for Autism improves relation between people with autism and people without autism in various ways. For example, school students may use it and understand autism first-hand, promoting compassion for children with autism, thereby, reducing bullying. This level of empathy from peers can ensure that children with autism can make meaningful connections, reducing the loneliness that often, sadly, becomes part of their lives. In addition, families of children with autism can understand their loved ones' condition better and develop patience and empathy by having the experience themselves.
Experience ToolkitExperience what it's like to have autism.
Entire Set of ToolkitLow arousal colours that people with autism feel comfortable
An Empathy Bridge PackagePackage that made by low cost materials.
Bridge for SpeakingFive different shapes make five different difficulty pronouncing.
Experience ToolkitExperience what it's like to have autism.
Bridge for HearingMaking amplified sound and background noise.
Bridge for HearingExperience amplified sound and background noise.
Before AssemblyComponents for each 'bridges'
Experience ToolkitAn audience had an experience at the show.
Show RCA 2016Exhibition at Royal college of Art from June 26 to July 3, 2016.
Dubai Grad Global ShowExhibition at Dubai from 24 to 28 October 2016.
Autism affects over 20 million people worldwide. Beyond the impersonal causes and treatments, this design is an exploration of how autism feels. Made of sustainable materials, the toolkit includes a headset, 2 ear pieces and 6 oddly-shaped lollipops. If users use them all at once, you can feel the world the way they do.I used low-cost materials as a way of making the kit easier to produce and share with a wider audience – and designed pieces in low-arousal colours favoured by people with autism.The empathy and understanding of others mean the world to people who have autism and to their families. "A minute of your time can bring remarkable changes to the lives of others."
1. Bridge for Vision
Autism may impact the way autistic people see. Seeing that they must interact with the world with a functionally impaired vision, it is easy to understand why we often come across people with autism having trouble making eye contact or keeping focused. Fatigue, disorientation, and frustration are common symptoms in these individuals. However, some autistic individuals are completely asymptomatic visually. Followings are the list of characteristics that users can experience.
The visions of people with autism are more light-sensitive than those of others, so bright light often gives them headaches.
Overemphasized vivid colors
Bright colors look brighter than how we would perceive them in people with autism. They may be sensitive to only specific colors or to a greater variety of colors.
Floating dust particles in the eyes
People with autism sometimes have a sensation of their surroundings being totally encased by tiny spots or stars. During these episodes, particles become a hypnotic foreground whilst the rest of the world fades away.
Sometimes people with autism see everything as blurry or as a double vision, which makes them feel nauseous.
Partially blocked vision
The visions of people with autism may be partially blocked as if someone is holding a hand in front of their face, blocking the view of one eye. In some cases their vision is blocked in a way that they can see only the middle.
2. Bridge for Hearing
Autism can also affect hearing. Some people with autism are unable to block out sound in the way most people can do when they want to focus on something. Because they can hear every noise and sound coming from their surroundings, you often see them closing their ears or rocking back and forth in clear signs of agitation. So being in a crowded place, let alone communicating in such an environment, is difficult for them. Also, people with autism may have difficulties from insensitive hearing. Followings are the list of characteristics that users can experience.
Noise and sound can be magnified, distorted, and muddled.
People with autism are sometimes unable to block out background noise, which makes keeping concentrating a difficult task for them; this gives others the perception that they are not concentrating on the given task at hand.
3. Bridge for Speaking
Autism could impact the speech of people. Unclear pronunciation may hinder a flowing communication. Their intentions may not be conveyed well due to their pronunciation problems often causing them to become frustrated. The specific parts of the tongue that they are unable to control may vary individually. Sometimes this brings about the false impression that people with autism are unable to think coherently. But it is important to note that intelligence is an independent matter from speaking disabilities. Followings are the list of characteristics that users can experience.
Many people with autism have problems with pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm. The specific vowel or consonant that the person has difficulty pronouncing may vary because variations in the severity and in the region of tongue paralysis exist.
Inability to speak
Some people with autism have more than average difficulties in speaking, which makes it easier for them to communicate through devices instead.
What was the challenge that you faced in creating this project?
While working on the project, I was often asked 'why is it essential to learn about Autism?' and 'why is the experience that important?'. I would answer, prejudices and indifference toward autism has been the biggest challenge to my project, and experience was the only thing that had power to break them. We are living in a sad world where people never care of what it's like to have autism, even though autism affects one out of every 300 people around us. They just think they saw 'someone unusual and strange' after witnessing people with autism. I realized soon that letting people know more about autism does not improve this unhappy situation and that knowledge does not guarantee understanding. Instead, I tried to provide people direct experience of having autistic sensory and it made all the difference. "I felt like I almost couldn't hear my own thoughts and what I was feeling," noted one user after using the VR tool and earphones. "I felt quite isolated… I didn't realise it would be as overwhelming as it was."
Another challenge that I faced was exclusive attitude of families with a child with autism. It made difficult for me to do the research and to receive user experience and feedback. However, I would like to stress that it was not because they were not kind people but because cold glances that they used to receive from others. Looking back, even though I have lived with a brother with autism for more than twenty years, I was not that much enthusiastic in meeting or communicating other families with an autistic child. I truly hope that this project could encourage more debates over autism in our society and that people with autism could live together in this society with more confidence.
How does this design deliver a simple, intuitive or delightful user experience?
Autism is characterised by difficulties in behaviour, social interaction, communication and sensory sensitivities. Each module of the toolkit is designed to emulate these struggles and evoke a similar sensation felt by the sufferer. An augmented-reality headset is worn over the eyes and connects to a smartphone to alter the user's perception of what's in front of them. Every noise and sound are magnified, distorted and muddled so that it is very hard to make a conversation while using the hearing tool. A set of six lollipops and candies impede tongue movement in various ways. If used three items all at once, users can feel the world the way they do.
Because various autistic sensory might discomforts its users, I adopted several factors that could turn this experience in more positive way. For example, In providing tongue-tying experience, I used sweets to make the experience amusable and enjoyable (people astonishingly showed positive reaction in using this tool as I observed). I also utilized colors favored by people with autism and round shapes to comfort its users.