The research, led by Dr Sarah Kettley, a reader in product design at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), in collaboration with the mental health charity Mind, aimed to help ensure that people with mental illnesses are not designed out of new technologies. Participants in the NTU study learned to create their own smart textile garments at the workshops.
Two members were empowered to such an extent that they were able to co-deliver an e-textile workshop at the university to international researchers and felt confident enough to attend a national Crafts Council conference in Manchester, said NTU in a statement.
Technology explored included fabric tilt switches that sense orientation, embroidered fabric sensors that complete an electrical circuit when stroked and fabric push-button switches. Participants produced smart concepts such as light-up gloves, pocket anxiety monitoring devices, and a large sculptural display of Mind members’ levels of wellbeing.
“The aim of the research was to raise new questions about how e-textiles can be personalised and how they can empower people and help them express their creativity,” said Dr Kettley, a smart textiles expert of the university's School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment.
“We were very pleased with the results as it is imperative that people with mental health issues are more empowered in the development of new technologies, particularly when you consider that one of four of us will at some point in our lives experience a mental illness,” added Kettley.
The project was funded by a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and was run in conjunction with Nottinghamshire Mind Network in consultation with up to 20 people who use the charity’s services.
“Many people with mental health issues get overlooked when opportunities like this arise. Being involved in the project has empowered, increased the confidence and developed the skills of people accessing Mind services,” said Nic Roberts, of the Notts Mind Network.
“The programme has enabled those taking part to be co-researchers in a subject they had very little knowledge of and ensured that their voices were heard and their experiences valued,” added Roberts. (KD)
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