A smartwatch for people with disabilities
My Role: Interaction Designer, UX Researcher / Type: Class Project

NavAble is a smartwatch interactive map application concept. It is a pervasive technology designed specifically to help empowering people with mobility disability. With NavAble, users are able to navigate to destination, indoor and outdoor, through a route that calculates with conditions of user’s disability (e.g. using wheelchair, weak muscle).

NavAble Promo


This project is part of University of Michigan Pervasive Interaction Design class (SI 612) group project. We were assigned to design a pervasive technology from scratch using proper tools and techniques. The final product of this project is a prototype and a demo video.

We are a team of 5: Wirithphol Ek-Ularnpun, Anna Muth, Zuo Yang, Iman Yeckehzaare, and me.

The Problem

While most of the buildings in the US provide a lot of facilities for people with disabilities, the users still encountered a lot of challenges finding and using these facilities because the lack of proper map or maintenance of the resources. Sometimes, these problems occur due to unforeseen consequence. For example, a button to operate a motorized door may be covered with snow due to heavy snowstorm.

snow covered button

The Studies

We conducted multiple sessions of interviews with people with mobility disabilities, University of Michigan faculties who are in charge of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), and a professor who is an expert in assistive technology. We also conduct one group interview with University of Michigan Council for Disability Concerns (CDC).

We also did diary studies with people who have mobility impairment. We used event-based prompting method to have the participant note down the information along with photos or videos every time he/she encountered an obstacle.

From the studies, we were able to uncover some of the pain points, including the lack of reporting services in the event that render some facilities unusable, and the hardship of finding the facilities in unfamiliar places.


From the interviews and diary studies, we did a brainstorming session and came up with three storyboards which detail different technology, use-cases, and scenarios that could be useful for the project.

3 storyboards

User Enactments

We conducted 5 user enactments in order to better understand the opportunities and constraints in our design space, with the goal of refining our concepts from the storyboards. We designed the total of 8 different enactments to test the users. Some of the enactments were meant to be provocative in order to test our assumption about negative experience.

Some of the enactments are:

During the enactments, we transformed a number of meeting rooms and hallways in a building into our virtual space.

User Enactments

Refining the concept

From the enactments, we realized that our system should be an interactive map on wearable technology with voice control. We decided to go with a smartwatch since it can be used without drawing much attentions, one of the point we found from the enactments.

Key Features

From the refined concept, we were able to identify the key features of our project.


As an interaction designer of the team, I was in charged of creating wireframes.



I was also responsible for creating mockup designs.


Demo Prototypes

We built a prototype by using Wizard of Oz method by strapping an iPhone to the user’s arm to emulate the smartwatch, while another person using a laptop to send the mockup images to the phone’s screen.

Demo Videos

We also created a demo concept video featuring NavAble usage scenarios.