Taking a dignified shower
A toilet and shower chair is one of those rare products that fails to be an actual consumer product. A consumer product must have a benefit for the user and stand out between it’s competition. If not, the consumer will not want to use the product and it simply won’t sell.
So why isn’t a toilet and shower chair a typical consumer product? Because nobody wants to use it, but sadly some people must.
Lets face it, it would better if such a chair did not need to be developed at all. For the people that have to use it, mostly elderly and weakened by age, the chair represents another thing on top of many others that they cannot do themselves.
But if you think using such a product safely in you own bathroom is a blow to your dignity, being seen on it by an entire ward of a care home is even worse. Many care homes and hospitals have a central bathroom. The clients are hoisted into a toilet and shower chair and are driven to the bathroom. Personally, and I am certain many will agree, I think this is one of the biggest nightmares of getting old.
The company Linido and Handicare, both specialists in manufacturing bathroom safety equipment, have decided to join forces and face the future together. The designers of Linido have given the second year students of the study Industrial Design Engineering at the The Hague University the task to merge the toilet an shower chair families of both companies. Both families have their pro’s and cons and they specifically asked us to take a closer look at them.
The task alone was a challenge, but during the design process it became clear that the chairs of both companies did not do much justice to the dignity of the user. Furthermore, the team noticed that the company was not only looking for a way to merge both families, but that the company had difficulty with positioning itself. The market was growing more demanding and other companies, specially from the Asia, were catching up. In the end our team proposed that we would make a concept not only based on the families, but to make a design that would fit our vision.
As product designers we cannot help that a person has need of a toilet a shower chair. But if he must use it, the least we can do is make it as less embarrassing as possible. So how could we make it less embarrassing? Well, by making it seem the user is just sitting on a regular chair! So we started out drafting normal chairs that still met the set requirements.
In the end we came up with a modern, minimalistic design. By using chromed tubes for the frame and a one formed piece of plywood (or plastic) for support the chair distantiates itself from the rather depressing clinical designs that can be found in current hospitals and care homes. A chair that nobody wants to use, but that helps retain the users dignity.