Assistive Workstation – Accessibility

Assistive Workstation


An assistive product design that supports working in bed with a mobility disability.


Industrial design, design research, fabrication, project management

Awards & Exhibitions

Recipient of the Leslie eLab grant and showcased at the ITP Winter Show 2018

Front view of assistive workstation bed desk, with elbow padding and grip for holding pencils and a laptop
Back view of the assistive workstation, showing detail of elbow padding
Right side view of assistive workstation, displaying cylindrical table feet
Bottom/up-side-down view of the assistive workstation, displaying the cherry wood color
Front view of assistive workstation with the addition of a cylindrical bowl holder with a 6 inch radius
Close up of cylindrical bowl holder with rubber gripping inside the perimeter to grip the bottom of a bowl
Assistive workstation displaying a bowl held by the bowl holder


Our client, Sharifa, wanted to be able to work from home but found barriers with working comfortably from bed.


Sharfia was using blankets as elbow support for her muscular dystrophy that generated too much heat.


A custom bed desk that was designed to meet the needs and preferences of one individual user.

Sharifa’s Criteria:

  • Thin and lightweight
  • Doesn’t rest on lap or legs
  • Doesn’t generate heat
  • Wipeable for eating
  • Keeps her elbows at a comfortable height
  • For independent eating, needs bowl closer to face
  • Needs bowl held in place
  • Padding under elbows that keeps them in place
  • Needs her tools within reach
  • Nothing on surface that irritates her skin
  • Matches the rest of her furniture

Our Solutions:

  • 1/2 inch plywood
  • Custom height and curvature of desk shape
  • No electrical elements
  • Polyurethane wood finish
  • Low fidelity prototyping to test for optimal height measurement
  • Raised, non-slip dish holder that counterbalances angle of desk
  • Magnets keep the dish holder secure on the table
  • Non-slip, removable, machine washable elbow padding
  • Rubber stripping to hold her pencil and laptop in place
  • Countersunk screws, rounded and sanded edges
  • Dark cherry wood stain

Design Method

In this use case, our method involved designing for one. We used human-centered design to create a product that met her individual needs and preferences, working from low to high fidelity prototypes.

Medium profile shot of Sharifa using the wooden workstation in her bed. Her laptop, remote, pencil, and a napkin rest on it. She holds her phone in her hands while the padding supports her elbows.

Client Feedback

“I’m just excited at the fact that I actually have this. Now in the summertime, when these blankets are off, I don’t have nothing hot on my legs or all that pressure.”

“I’m not really [sitting] straight—my body is more leaning to the right. And because of that,—even though I’m leaning on this [left] elbow—it’s causing numbness and a little pressure on this arm.”

“I’ve been using it every day and I haven’t stopped… I can use it for everything and I do.”

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