These Scientists Are Building Fitness Trackers That Work For People With Disabilities


Fitness and weight tracking can help stop obesity, but for people with disabilities, they often don’t work at all.

Sebastian Williams is 20 pounds away from a brand-new life. A 64 year-old disabled veteran in Austin, Texas, Williams has spinal stenosis—a condition that causes him pain in his neck and lower back—and osteoarthritis in his hips. Together, the two conditions cause Williams extreme daily pain, sometimes confining him to bed for entire days and making it tough to walk even short distances across his home.

“When you move, it feels like somebody’s got a knife inside your hip,” he says. “Every time you move your hip, it’s like something cutting you.”

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.