Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (64.62 MB)

A cutlery set for stroke

Download (64.62 MB)
posted on 2021-11-22, 21:48 authored by Chen, Lin

Stroke is a common problem that affects approximately 700,000 patients annually in the United States alone and can cause long-term disabilities (Mallory, 2006, p.33). The long-term effects of a stroke can impact on the patient’s ability to use one side of their body. Upper limb, lower limb, postural and communication difficulties are common factors that patients experience after a stroke (Perry, 2004), which can affect the patient’s ability to eat (McLaren, 1997).  After a stroke, the impairment of an upper limb can lead to problems that make it difficult for people to use cutlery, and include poor grip, decreased muscle control, tremors and upper limb weakness (Brackenrige, 2016). Currently, there are some assistive technology (AT) cutlery sets aimed to help patients who have difficulty in eating and muscle control. Several reasons why stroke patients abandon AT cutlery are cost, appearance, and function (Vaes, 2014). However, an experiment (Torrens, 2013) in to adaptive cutlery products and previous research suggest that there is a large space to improve this, such as appearance and function.  AT cutlery sets have been criticized because of their appearance and inferior functions (Torrens, 2013). This then leads to a disconnection between the user and the AT cutlery products, in which the user experiences visible stigma and links the cutlery to an undesirable characteristic (Vaes, 2012). There are some limitations of the current AT cutlery sets that have been identified in the evaluation (Torren & Smith, 2013), such as poor friction material, stereotypical shapes, and skin-tone handle colour. The limitations create an opportunity for the designers to improve the AT cutlery set to be a selected object and a pleasurable product to use in everyday life.  The purpose of this research is to explore how human-centred design can reduce the stigma of using AT cutlery for stroke patients through addressing the appearance and interactions of spoons, forks and knives. The research involves the following steps: observing videos of stroke patients eating, interviewing clinicians, interviewing stroke patients, and iterative design with the supervision of clinicians.  Some of the main issues identified surrounding stroke patient eating and using cutlery include grip weakness, muscle contracture, and difficulty of flexion. Based on the product intervention model for stigma (PIMS) (Vaes, 2014), this study utilized existing research surrounding the evaluation of assistive technology. To help understand each stage of the user needs, previous feedback from health-care clinicians and patients will ensure the validity of ergonomic interventions and stigma strategy as a substitute for traditional cutlery design.  The output of this research includes a set of cutlery as well as assistive components. The design addresses a patient’s difficulty in using cutlery through an adaptive ring to help the patients’ grip. The utensils allow the user to either carry out eating activities at home or in a restaurant.  The feedback from occupational therapists and physiotherapists indicates that the cutlery should accommodate different levels of stroke severity. Based on the findings of literature reviews and feedback, I have focused my design on addressing the stroke patients’ grip weakness, muscle contracture, and difficulty of hand flexion, whilst minimizing stigma, based on the PIMS strategies (Vaes, 2014). The design principle suggests that current cutlery designs with an integrated shape cannot meet all requirements of a stroke patient. Therefore, a combination of additional wearing components needs to be used to help dietary intake.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Industrial Design

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Design Innovation

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design


Rodriguez-Ramirez, Edgar