How can design projects focused on severe disabilities go beyond an assistive approach?
That’s the question Transverse is intended to answer. The vast majority of design projects regarding severe disabilities are based on assistance. Disability is seen as a problem to be compensated for, as opposed to an opportunity for creating new experiences – not only for the people with disabilities themselves, but for everyone. Transverse was inspired by people diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that affects motor, cognitive and speech functions (among others). People diagnosed with Rett syndrome are very drawn to music and rhythm, and use eye contact as the main form of communication.
The key concept of this project is dialogue: an experience of sharing, connection and expression, where the patient/caregiver dynamics dissolves and both become interlocutors. In a Transverse room, two or more people can create an unique nonverbal dialogue. An interface composed of several kinds of sensors and cameras translates body movement, facial expression and eye movement into visual and audio information.
Also decisive to Transverse are the concepts of translation and language – there isn’t a predefined set of symbols that correspond to certain body movements. During each Transverse experience, movements are translated into particular visual and audio information, which the participants gradually learn to acknowledge as an unique language. Eventually, they begin to explore the possibilities of expression within it and create a rich dialogic environment.