Helping brain injury survivors
get back to driving
A driving assistant that supports brain injury survivors as they return to driving through pre-planned trips, reminders, and progress tracking with their therapist. The system consists of a standalone mobile app with an additional component for car infotainment screens.
Graduate coursework project (10 weeks) with a team of 4 members.
As the UX Designer on the team, I led the design and prototyping of the product and also contributed to generative research.
Understanding phase
A long road to recovery.
Brain injury usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head and driving after such an experience can be a daunting task. Recovering patients struggle with driving fatigue, anxiety, and low memory retention. Many find it difficult to afford professional caregiver supervision to practice driving during the long recovery period and handle multiple therapy appointments.
How might we then use technology to help brain injury
survivors get back to driving?
Stepping into their shoes.
Since we picked a very niche target audience, we came up with an extensive research plan to step into the shoes of a brain injury survivor and understand their struggles and goals. We focussed on the trajectory of patient recovery, therapist-patient relationship, and the recovery plan. Throughout the research, I pushed to include questions about the patient's emotional state.
Understanding phase
Driving anxiety and fatigue.
During their recovery period, the patients struggle with the following symptoms which hamper their driving ability.
  1. Anxiety and low confidence.
  2. Fatigue and the inability to realize that they are tired.
  3. Forgetting basic details such as the reason for their trip.
  4. Overwhelming recovery plan.
Current product landscape.
Currently, the market has outdated hardware tools that lack digital components. Moreover, these tools do not support personalization according to the patient's recovery plan or any integration for therapist involvement.
TBI map
Journey map: 4 stages of recovery.
Design opportunities.
The journey map helped us identify the struggles that brain injury survivors face during the 4 phases of recovery. We narrowed down our scope to the prime recovery period phase and the maintenance phase when considering design opportunities.
Design opportunities
I felt it was important that I approach each step of the ideation process intending minimize distraction instead of adding to it. While sketching my ideas, I was tempted to add multiple features but working with the goal of least distractibility helped me stay on track.
My sketches of our original set of ideas that we went ahead with.
Testing paper prototypes.
We started with paper prototypes and tested with 8 participants. I found paper prototyping to be a hands-on method of testing your high-level ideas to finalize the direction you want your solution to go in. After testing, the overall feedback was positive and indicated that we were headed in the right direction. However, since our solution involved multiple devices I decided to outline the user flow across different touchpoints of our application in an ideal situation. This helped us account for any missing functionality as we move towards higher fidelity prototypes.
Paper prototypes
Touchpoints in the user journey of using our solution.
Testing wireframes and finalizing application flow.
We tested the wireframes through moderated usability testing with 3 participants which included one driver who is a Speech-language pathologist/Brain injury specialist, one driver who had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and one driver without a TBI. Task-based usability testing helped us further define the application flow by eliminating and adding features based on user interaction.
Severity 1: Two out of the three participants found the visual reminders in the midst of driving to be ‘verbose’ and an actual distraction to go about reading them while driving.
Severity 2: All participants appreciated the ability to customize every setting in the preferences screen but they also found it overwhelming when starting with the app for the first time.
Severity 3: One of the participants was confused about whether to wait for the in-driving visual reminder to disappear or to close it manually.
App flow
Finalized application flow.
Visual theme.
Moving into the third iteration, I started thinking about visual design as the core functionality had been established. I decided to adhere to the material design guidelines with customized themes based on the needs of our target audience. As a designer who is designing for patients in their recovery stage from a serious injury, I wanted the visual theme to convey a distraction-free and simplistic look. At the same time, I wanted it to be motivated and cheerful.
In choosing the theme, I was heavily influenced by mindfulness and meditation applications which I feel have a balance of simplicity with cheerfulness.
Handling user preferences.
To ensure that each feature was customizable according to the user's needs I gave significant thought to designing application preferences. It was a challenge to provide granularity for different features while avoiding complexity for the users. Intuitive categorization and default preferences during app onboarding helped in simplifying the experience.
App flow
Improved preferences screen after usability testing.
A driving companion.
For the final prototypes, we focused on 3 key features of our application: pre-planned trips with breaks, progress tracking with your therapist, and reminders during driving. Our solution also had a component for driving reminders which works with major car navigation applications (Google Maps was used in prototypes).
Framer prototype as final deliverable.

Bringing awareness to the problem.
As a team, we believe that our application helped start a conversation around the need for products aimed at recovery from brain injury. We helped raise awareness about the experience of brain injury survivors and extensively researched to avoid common pitfalls. However, more iterations would be needed with a bigger sample of our users to launch the application for real-time use.
Given more time, I would work on incorporating the experience of the therapist with the application. We envision Mighty to be a HIPAA compliant solution that benefits both the patient and the therapist through the exchange of healthcare data.