University of Dundee

Researchers start work on designing a wheelchair-friendly lab coat

28 Jul 2022

A team of researchers from the University of Dundee have received funding to develop a wheelchair-friendly lab coat, and they’re looking for lab users to get involved in the project. 

Dr. Melissa D’Ascenzio of the School of Life Sciences and Dr. Andrew Cook and Dr. Graham Pullin of DJCAD were awarded the grant by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Inclusion and Diversity fund.

Dr. Cook said "We’re at the end of the 22nd Disability Pride Month but we’re still surrounded by ableism and barriers to basic inclusion. The lack of wheelchair-friendly lab coats is one of those, which may seem like a small thing, but it can be really profound. It can be dangerous, since people might have to wear something that fits badly, is impractical, or go without altogether. Just as importantly, it’s a barrier that can leave people feeling othered, unwelcome and like their place in the lab is less important."

The project aims to design a wheelchair-friendly lab coat that’s safe, functional, fits well, looks great, and is totally credible in the lab. 

By the end of the project, the team plan to make coats available in the campus shop, so that people who use a wheelchair can arrive on campus and go to their lab ready to start working with the same convenience as their coursemates and colleagues. The team hope this study will be the first step towards a mass market off-the-peg wheelchair-friendly lab coat.

But first, they are looking for people who would like to be involved in the project at the start. Cook explains: "the first and most important thing for us is finding people who use wheelchairs and work or study in labs to mentor us. That might involve talking about your experiences and frustrations, contributing your ideas to the design process and eventually adopting prototypes to try out in the lab."

If you’re interested in getting involved or would like to find out more, contact Dr. Melissa D’Ascenzio and Dr. Andrew Cook at m.dascenzio@dundee.ac.uk and aazcook@dundee.ac.uk 

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