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From Arthritis Today

Tucked away in a nondescript building on the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) campus in Atlanta is a unique lab whose scientists’ sole purpose is to analyze the interface of man and machine. This electronic systems laboratory, the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), is where the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation Program tests products.

The Arthritis Foundation created the Ease-of-Use Commendation Program to encourage manufacturers to design user-friendly products and packaging that could be recommended to the millions of people living with arthritis.

How are products tested?

The process begins with the manufacturer, who submits a product to the Arthritis Foundation seeking expert evaluation of its product. At the GTRI lab, scientists experienced in the design and evaluation of products conduct tests to find out if the products is easy to use for someone with arthritis. The answer results from a three-step testing process.

  • Each product is evaluated by a team of scientists, who test the product against a number of “pass” or “fail” requirements specific to the type of product under evaluation. For example, how easy it is to open a medicine bottle or to operate a stationary bike?
  • Then the scientists assess and establish user tasks based on every manner in which someone with arthritis might use the product, from the point at which the product is removed from the packaging – yes, the package itself is evaluated – through multiple uses.
  • Finally, a team of eight testers who have moderate-to-severe arthritis are evaluated for grip, torque and muscle strength, endurance, pinch force and range of motion. The testers then get to open and use the product, and then each tester is interviewed by the team of scientists.

“We try to be as objective as possible. I rarely ask if a tester likes the product or not, because that’s not the issue,” says Brad Fain, PhD, senior research scientist at GTRI. “I want to know if it’s easy to use.”

How do products earn the Ease-of-Use seal?

To garner a “favorable” grade from GTRI and become eligible for the Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation, a product must meet the following criteria:

  •  A “pass” rating on all the checklist evaluation items, at least five or eight testers must be able to use it with little or no difficulty; and
  • No more than one of eight testers should experience great difficulty using the product.