The Arthritis Foundation’s Ease of Use Commendation Program tests products in a laboratory operated by the Intuitive Design Applied Research Institute (IDARI). IDARI, founded by Dr. Brad Fain, is focused on evaluating human performance and the ability of all users to successfully use consumer products ranging from medical devices to packaging. IDARI helps companies design consumer products that are easy to use by people with functional limitations such as those with arthritis.
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 IDARI, 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 research participants who have moderate-to-severe arthritis are evaluated for grip, torque and muscle strength, endurance, pinch force and range of motion. The participants then get to open and use the product, and then each participant’s performance is evaluated.
“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, founder at IDARI. “I want to know if it’s easy to use.” Developing a product that is ease to use for someone with arthritis helps everyone. According to Dr. Fain, “What might be a mild annoyance to someone without a disability can be an absolute barrier to someone with arthritis.” By evaluating products with people with arthritis and removing barriers to use, IDARI helps companies make better products for everyone.
How do products earn the Ease-of-Use seal?
To garner a “favorable” grade from IDARI 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 of the eight participants must be able to use it with little or no difficulty; and
- No more than one of eight participants should experience great difficulty using the product