• A User Experience Design for people with a mental disability


Personal project

I grew up in a family with twin sisters who both happened to be mentally disabled. It is almost impossible for them to be fully independent. I always had the pressure to create a product that helps them and others who are not (yet) able to live on their own.
Mattie (Matti.es) is a product that helps people with a mental disability to do daily activities on their own, by giving them daily tasks through a smart device instead of caretakers.

Meet Iris (English subs)

Iris is 21 years old and born with the Fragile X-syndrome. Apart from a mental disability, people with this syndrome have multiple deviations than we do. Their social adaptability is limited, they have speech- and language barriers and won’t be able live independent.
Mentally disabled people process every sign or impulse from people and their surroundings in puzzle pieces. The following need to be very clear to them: What do I need to do? When? With who? Where? How should I do it? To be able to get this clear, they need a good structure, clear communication and a list of daily tasks to hold on.
Existent products and services that offer day planning, aren’t offering the products for this specific user group. Most services focus on users with smartphones, while most people with a mental disability don’t own a smartphone. Other services only provide them with clear instructions, but are not helping the users to develop and to be more independent in the end.

Design Challenge

How can we build a digital solution where we make daily tasks clear for people with a mental disability and how can they act more independent, without taking more time of caretakers?

The product

The service exists of two products: Mattie Tasks and Mattie Watch.
Mattie Tasks is an agenda app for caretakers and mentors, where they’re able to organize day planning for their clients. The app will give the mentors a clear view of every activity, while they’re as well able to tell the user specifically what they need to do. By being able to fill in a task step by step according to the method why, how, when, what, who, where, a task will be spot on and very clear for all users.
Mattie Watch is a smartwatch for the people with a mental disability, that works without the connection of a smartphone. It’s linked to the internet by sim-card (internet connection) and live synchronized with Mattie Tasks. Every task or activity on Mattie Tasks linked with the profile of the smartwatch user will be shown on the smartwatch. Mattie Watch explains every activity step by step, that helps the user to completely understand what they’re asked to do. The smartwatch works with audio and visual communication, by using voice and pictograms. The use of a digital solution helps mentally disabled to better understand a task and eventually to be more independent.

See the prototype (video only)

Watch the video

The result

The project was based on User Experience and Usability and was tested multiple times with mentors and caretakers, as well as the mentally disabled themselves. It’s really hard to test with this specific focus group, but they remarkably understood how to use the smartwatch and how to test the app.

Now I can finally see what I need to do and I never have to ask Erica (mentor)!” – Iris

“This won’t only be a benefit for our clients, as a caretaker, it will be way easier to communicate with them. We can give them the care and independence they deserve and we will be able to help more people in need of care.” – Erica van Leeuwen, owner of care farm De Buitenkans

The project was nominated for a Golden Dot Award and the video is praised by showing people the limitations of people with a mental disability, but especially the possibilities.

Photography (backstage)