September 10, 2022

Shital Desai pioneers accessible interaction design as York Research Chair

Shital Desai is combining her expertise in robotics with product design to create innovative solutions that are both inclusive and inspired. As the principal investigator for AMPD’s Social and Technological Systems Lab (SaTS), she addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Un SDGs) 3 and 4 concerning good health and well-being and quality education.

“I specifically try to come up with design solutions after understanding the systemic challenges people face,” says Desai. “If you just design services and technology for people without understanding their needs and abilities, most of them, including able-bodied people, find them difficult to use.”

She is also a strong proponent of inclusive design, but says we need appropriate methods to generate systemic outcomes. People, especially marginalized groups, usually are not comfortable expressing negative experiences, so conventional research methods could fail to generate effective solutions.

“A lot of my research involves people co-designing interventions. I become a facilitator and the stakeholders become the designers. It changes the power balance between the research and the stakeholders (users).”

She and her research team are exploring technologies that can prompt people with dementia to complete an activity as they do their everyday tasks.

Desai recognized as York Research Chair in Accessible Interaction Design

Desai was named York Research Chair in Accessible Interaction Design, one of only eight researchers across York University asked to join the York Research Chairs (YRC) program in 2022. The YRC program is the University’s internal counterpart to the national Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program which recognizes outstanding researchers.

Shital Desai, design department in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, pursues UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through design research methods such as human-centred design, systems design and speculative design. Her YRC research will undertake codesign and development efforts with people with dementia, caregivers, health care practitioners and community partners. Using a Research through Design (RtD) process, this program will drive pivotal real-world advances in interactive prompting, with a view to the eventual development of whole new assistive/prompting systems.

Learn more about York Research Chairs here.