Introduction: Empathy Kit

For this year’s European disability employment week, onepoint invested in creating its own Empathy kit.

But what is an empathy kit exactly and what is it for? An Empathy kit is meant to help people have a better understanding of what other people (pregnant women, kid, elderly person…) might feel in a certain context. It helps designers create more inclusive products and services, but it can also be used to sensitize people and help them develop better behaviour toward these people. In this case, onepoint’s empathy kit focuses on visible and invisible handicaps by simulating consequences of this handicap using special accessories.

Many scenarios are possible. One of them is Handalatok, created by Naoual El Alaoui, handicap specialist at onepoint. Each participant picks a card from the Handalatok deck. Every card presents a different handicap and list the equipment that need to be used. During approximately 30 minutes, the participants have to collaborate to prepare a selection of dishes while dealing with their new handicap. At the end, they all debrief their experience around a fresh meal. They share what they felt was painful, unexpected, frustrating, but also what helped them or could have help them.

If you want to know more about the Onepoint Empathy Kit or the Handalatok workshops, you can reach me at

Step 1: Sensory Loss of the Hands

We use a double layer of plastic gloves. A layer is made of dishwashing gloves. A second one is for high voltage manipulations. Put together, it’s even difficult to feel the tip of a nail.

Associated handicaps or causes: Paralysis, spinal cord damage...

Step 2: Blindness

We use a simple sleeping mask made of soft foam that adapts perfectly to the shape of the face, blocking all light.

Associated handicaps or causes: Glaucoma, Advanced retinopathy, Macular degeneration…

Step 3: Loss of Sight

We use a diving mask (without the nose part) and cover the inside with Vaseline. It is extremely effective in diffracting light and can easily be adjusted by the quantity of Vaseline being used.

Associated handicaps or causes: Cataracts, diabetic retinopathy…

Step 4: Color Blindness

We use bicolor lenses used for 3D images to simulate the difficulty to identify and see colors clearly.

Associated handicaps or causes: Color vision deficiency, dichromacy, anomalous trichromacy.

Step 5: Loss of the Sense of Smell

A simple nose clip does the job, but it also blocks part of your breathing capacity, which is another handicap.

Associated handicaps: Anosmia…

Step 6: Hearing Loss

In this case, we chose to use a noise reducing headset. It blocks most sound but simulates only a partial hearing loss. To simulate a complete deafness, we prefer using a Bose headset with good noise cancelling and loud music to make it impossible to hear people talking.

Associated handicaps or causes : Age, eardrum related disease, Usher syndrome, Stickler syndrome, Waardenburg syndrome, Alport's syndrome, Down Syndrome, Vestibular schwannoma…

Step 7: Speech Impediment

The difficulty to articulate, or have a perfect elocution is the side effect of several illness. To simulate this communication disorder, we use dentist mouth openers that stretch the cheeks of the participants, making it very difficult to talk or to get understood. To simulate a completely mute person, no special equipment is needed.

Associated handicaps or causes: Side effect of hearing loss, brain injury, physical malformation…

Step 8: Loss of Taste

Definitely one of the most frustrating, but interesting experiences to have during the Handalatok cooking workshop it to pick the « loss of taste ». We had to do a little research on plant that are natural taste inhibitors. We discovered the Gymnema Sylvestre, a perennial woody vine. It’s leaves contain an acid that interact with the taste buds and temporally suppress the sensation of sweetness. It comes has mouthwash, pills or even tea and the effect is impressive, especially if you decide to chew a pill, but be careful… it tastes awful

As if it wasn’t enough, we also added Synsepalum dulcificum, also known as Magic berries to the empathy kit. These little red berries have the capacity to block acidity receptors, which cause sour food, such as lemons, to taste sweet. Combine the Magic Berry with the Gymnema Sylvestre and you are on a rough 30 minutes of tasting only saltiness… and it’s quite depressing. Associated handicaps or causes: Trauma to the head, radiation therapy, medications…

Step 9: Loss of Balance

We use a balance board, simple piece of wood with a half-sphere stuck under it.

Associated handicaps or causes: Disturbance of Labyrinthine-Vestibular Function, Meniere’s disease…

Step 10: Morbid Obesity

Obesity can be considered a handicap if it makes the professional life difficult. To simulate the condition, we use three accessories. A 30kg weight vest, 0.5kg weight on each limb and an inflatable suit to create volume.

Associated handicaps or causes: Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, hormonal problem.

Step 11: TIC Disorder

We recorded 10 minutes of vocal sounds and random words on a 10 minutes audio file. The file is sent via Bluetooth on a portable speaker attached to the belt of the participant. The participant is also invited to « act » and use random physical tics during the workshop.

Associated handicaps or causes: Tourette syndrome, dystonia…

Step 12: Tetany

This sign, also known as « Signe de Trousseau » or « main d’accoucheur » is the result of involuntary contraction of muscles. To simulate it, we attach each finger to a special elastic band designed to prevent carpal tunnel arthritis.

Associated handicaps or causes: Tetany crisis, hypocalcaemia, magnesium deficiency,

Step 13: Limb Loss (Arm) - Limb Loss (Leg)

To simulate medical amputation or congenital amputation, we removed limbs from working suits. For the leg amputation, we help the participant sustain the weight of his leg by using a long elastic band connecting his foot with his shoulder.

Associated handicaps or causes: Congenital anomalies, infections, bone cancer, accidents…

Step 14: Attention Deficit Disorder

We had to use advanced technology to simulate part of this disorder. We programmed an augmented reality headset to project non-stop videos (cartoons, stop motions, YouTube tutorials…) directly in front of the participant, creating a perpetual distraction.

Associated handicaps or causes: Autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome…

Step 15: Paraplegia

We use a long velcro band to wrap the legs together. The participant has to sit on a chair for the entire workshop.

Associated handicaps or causes: Spinal cord injury, congenital condition...

I Hope you enjoyed discovering onepoint's empathy kit. As a designer, I think it is a great tool to bring user experience to the next level by making products and services more inclusive. The kit will keep evolving and improving. As you read these lines, more accessories are beeing designed . If you have other ideas of handicaps that should be simulated or scenarios that could be tested, don't hesitate to share them with us.