Although present in medical and historical texts for millennia, urinary incontinence remains a somewhat taboo topic, with both affected individuals and remedies for the condition--such as adult diapers--subject to ridicule, embarrassment, status loss, discrimination, and even exile. Reinforcing this discriminatory behavior, the adult diaper--a spur from the baby diaper invention--tracks a parallel path to incontinence. With diapers and adult incontinence rooted in a misunderstood cross-pollination with infant incontinence, individuals must struggle against known stereotypes and stigmas liable to label them as incompetent, impotent, or unclean. The stigma of incontinence is thus aligned with the diaper, reinforcing social ignorance and discriminating structural environments. Establishments of structural discrimination, such as medical providers and architectural policy, are instrumental in perpetuating the stigma of urinary incontinence through their unimpeachable status and concomitant power.

Product, social structure, power systems and architecture are inevitably linked in the case of systemic disenfranchisement. In this study, the adult diaper is seen as one key to crippling such mechanisms and inspire new direction and greater dignity within incontinent populations. Synthesizing qualitative and quantitative research on product history, product function, market trends, material trends, user needs, and product testing, a case is made for a reusable incontinence garment...at first hybridized with disposable technology and later envisioned to connect with emerging trends in wearable technology, urine collection and agricultural systems. Enabling such synapses between seemingly disparate parts, argues that dignity may be engendered in populations upon establishing multidimensional strategies within product research and design, with the intent of transcending personal and cultural biases.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Diapers--Design; Urinary incontinence--Patients--Services for

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Industrial Design (MFA)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Design (CIAS)


Stan Rickel

Advisor/Committee Member

Alex Lobos

Advisor/Committee Member

Dan Harel


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at RC921.I5 G67 2014

2015 RIT Outstanding MFA Thesis Award


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes