Over 40 million people in the world are blind and more than three times this many have other forms of visual impairment. Despite this, most consumer products aren't designed with them in mind, so I wanted to design a product that helped blind and low-vision users with an important daily activity.
I spoke with members of the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind and learned that kitchen instruments pose some of the largest problems for blind users. This is because the kitchen is one of the most used spaces in the home and because cooking involves the precise measurement of ingredients that can spill and stain. In response to what I learned, I decided to design a product that addressed the many issues blind people have with measuring ingredients in the kitchen. I wanted to take a truly universal approach, so I spoke to people with low-vision and full blindness, amateur home cooks, and professional chefs about their measuring-related thoughts and needs.
To help blind and low-vision users in the kitchen, I designed a measuring device named Measure Up. Measure Up has a sliding basin so users can measure solids, liquids, and sticky syrups, and then easily push them out. It eliminates the problems that are associated with most sliding measuring cups by having an enclosed mechanism to prevent leaking and pinching, and a contoured, rubberized base to prevent slipping due to wet or oily hands. It also has an extended lip that hooks over the edge of cups and bowls to ease the pouring of liquids into other vessels and eliminate dripping down its side. Measure Up's current measurement size can be felt as the ridges on the side of its basin are exposed.
After I presented Measure Up to the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind, I was invited to be a state speaker and presenter for universal design at the 2010 Pennsylvania Council of the Blind Conference & Convention.
After I originally decided to design a universally friendly measuring device, I read reviews of existing devices and went to various cookware stores to experience them in person. I learned the positives and negatives of existing products and realized the need for a new, more universal measuring device.
My first prototype for a new measuring device was a pitcher-based measuring cup that used a float and side-mounted measurement indicators to measure its contents. The user could measure ingredients without looking by moving the indicator to the desired level and then waiting for the float to cause the top of the pitcher to bump into his or her finger while he or she poured in ingredients. The protoype was only able to work with liquids and blind users knew where the float was but not where the liquid was. Blind users also couldn't tell whether or not they were holding the cup level due to the offset handle.
To learn how blind and low-vision users interact with measuring cups and spoons, I interviewed members of the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind, the leading advocacy group for the visually impaired in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I also interviewed patrons of the Carnegie Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, buyers and sellers at a low-vision product exposition, and users of an online forum for the blind.
My second round of prototypes eliminated the handle to put as little material as possible between users' hands and the ingredients they were measuring. The prototype on the left allowed for a small measurement to be made on one side and a large measurement to be made on the other. This gave users two measurements in one cup, but could be confusing to read and allowed food to be easily caught in the mechanism.
The prototype in the middle used a ChapStick-like mechanism to adjust the size of the measurement. It featured raised bars on its side that lined up with different measurements as the cup was twisted. The cup was easily adjustable, but twisting it to raise the measurement seemed less intuitive than it could be. The cup also required users' hands to be on the bottom of the cup so it was difficult to use on tables.
The prototype on the right used an inner basin that could be pulled up and down to reveal ridges that indicate measurements. This prototype was very intuitive because pulling up and down equates to raising and lowering measurements. Measurements were easy to read because the ridges were large and feelable from all sides of the cup. While this prototype seemed the most promising, the basin was somewhat difficult to pull, pouring could be difficult due to the round lip, it allowed liquids to drip down its side during pouring, and the users' hands could easily slide off the cup due to its cylindrical shape.
I moved forward with the prototype on the right of the previous image and sketched different cup shapes and ridge profiles to address some of the issues with the original prototype.
I then prototyped some of these ideas to test their effectiveness. I first tried a version with a small basin and an outward contour, but it looked and felt like a medicine bottle and wasn't comfortable to hold (left).
I then tried a cylindrical version as I had earlier, but it also wasn't very comfortable and allowed for users' hands to slip when covered with ingredients (second to left).
My third new prototype had an inward contour that prevented slipping, but it had sharp transition angles that weren't very comfortable to hold (middle).
I then made a similar protoype that had smooth transitions in its contour. This prototype was comfortable to hold but was still somewhat difficult to pull up and down and still allowed liquids to drip down its side during pouring (second to right).
To address these issues, I made another prototype with an extended lip to make the basin easier to pull. The extended lip also enables users to hook the lip over other vessels to easily pour liquids without dripping. This prototype also had an angled finger rest to prevent fingers from slipping from the ridges as they are exposed. Now that all of the issues with the previous prototypes were resolved, this became my final concept and I named it Measure Up(right).
This is a photo that I took while I was making the final prototype for Measure Up.
This photo shows the final prototype demonstrating how it can be taken apart to be cleaned.
In this photo, the final prototype is shown while set at different measurements.
The extended lip of the final prototype eases pouring and prevents dripping by hooking onto the edge of other vessels.
This photo shows how the extended lip also makes the basin easier to pull and how the angled finge rest prevents the users' fingers from slipping away from the ridges as they are exposed.
This is a rendering of Measure Up that shows it in two states. The rendering shows how a translucent basin will allow sighted users to see ingredients from the side of the cup.
This rendering shows how the text on Measure Up is positioned to be easily seen from above by low-vision users and how it is raised to be easiy felt and read by blind users.