Sustainable Development Goals


Solving everyday challenges for people with disabilities

Teams of UCL students are designing and building a variety of assistive technology equipment to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities in London.

An image of a woman holding a camera. A Project Impactive team developed a camera holder for someone born with no fingers on her left hand, so she can take her GCSE in Photography.

14 January 2021

“Sadly, accessibility is being taught on the periphery of engineering degrees, whereas it should a critical factor in the design process,” says Volodymyr Kyselov (UCL Mechanical Engineering 3), who is part of a student community volunteering initiative that is filling the gap. “We want to spread the message that good design is inclusive design.”

Project Impactive is an umbrella for teams of UCL students who design and build customised equipment and accessories that increase their independence of people with disabilities across London.

Since its foundation in 2016, the project has had 30–40 volunteers each year, who have since delivered more than 20 items of bespoke assistive technology equipment. Volodymyr is overseeing multiple project teams, including one building a device that can activate the pedals of a piano for a wheelchair-bound person.

“The people that we collaborate with are integral to the design and manufacturing process, pioneering a participatory design approach, recognising that everyone's needs are bespoke under the umbrella of disability,” explains Aemilia Baker (UCL Chemical Engineering 3), who is leading multiple teams designing, among other things, assistive driving equipment.

Sadly, accessibility is being taught on the periphery of engineering degrees, whereas it should a critical factor in the design process.

Other equipment being created in 2020/21 include: an adapted exercise frame for someone with repetitive strain injury; a wheelchair platform/trailer to carry a ventilator that can be quickly and easily accessed in case of an emergency; and a universal cup holder for a wheelchair user to carry different types of cups safely and securely around her house.

Previous projects include an audio-based device for a person who is deaf with visual impairment issues to alert him of hazards when he is outdoors.

The group works in partnership with the UCL Global Disability Innovation Hub, which identifies people that the students can work with to create the bespoke equipment. Project Impactive also works with external organisations such as MERU and Remap, charities that design and manufacture assistive products for disabled people.

Project Impactive is one of the many initiatives supported by the Students’ Union UCL Volunteering Service, which connects students with community volunteering opportunities across London.