The following ideas were considered for this project:

 

Project Idea: Car Bed Stroller

Transporting babies with neuromuscular conditions in traditional strollers with car seat attachments can be difficult. One parent told me she found the incline of this type of design made it difficult for her child to breathe, so she had to use a car bed instead. However, she was unable to find one that attached to a stroller, causing her great difficulty when transporting her son and all the equipment he needed to the hospital. Would it be possible to adapt the traditional child stroller design for use with a car bed?

Carbed - Would it be possible to adapt the traditional child stroller for use with a car bed?

Car Bed – Would it be possible to adapt the traditional child stroller for use with a car bed?

The majority of people who answered questions on this topic had used a car seat stroller. Overall the products were considered suitable, although one respondent stated that they added some lumbar support. However another respondent stated that car seat strollers had not been suitable for her needs because her son had not being able to breath well when sitting at any incline. ‘We were forced to use a car bed, which made it very difficult to carry him and his equipment into a doctors office or anywhere. Had we been able to use the carseat / stroller combo, we then could have transported him on wheels and used the basket underneath for equipment and things would have been a little easier as far as transporting went’.

Good aspects of car seat strollers were considered to be:

  • Go from the car to the stroller in a snap.
  • Didn’t wake child when transfer from car to buggy.
  • It was a way of showing our son the world around him as we did not have a wheelchair and he was quite heavy to carry for more than a few minutes.
  • The the wheels on the stroller, and the basket underneath to hold equipment.

Bad aspects of the product were:

  • Size, weight of the folded stroller.
  • No cup holder for mom.
  • Weak muscle tone caused child’s head to hit the side rails where the stroller connects to the canopy.
  • Child was not able to breath while sitting in any position, the carseat didn’t fold out to allow him to lay down and the stroller would not safely hold a carbed. So instead it would take at least 3 people to get him from house to car and car to doctor. The carbed was very awkward to carry, then there was the heart monitor, pulseox, suction machine, feeding pump, oxygen, diaper bag, and accessories bag for the machines.
  • Couldn’t put passenger seat all way back (too big).

Suggestions for improving car seat strollers included:

  • Padding around the head area (rail section) to prevent kids from injury.
  • The basket that fits at the bottom of the stroller could be a tad wider. ‘We would always carry suction in the basket but would have to hang everything else off our shoulders. The idea here is to enjoy a carefree walk with your child and not have to worry about things falling or breaking (equiptment wise that is).
  • A car bed attachmment rather than a car seat.
  • Detachable hooks (like IV) for things like a feeding bag / pump.
  • Ability to have some of the equipment, for example a suction machine, easily accessible.
  • Side loading so you could put the seat back.

When asked if a car bed stroller would be a more suitable product than a car seat stroller, the responses included:

  • No, as children grow and develop, they need to have more age-approriate view of their surroundings. Adequate support in the inclined seat would be more appropriate.
  • I prefer both features to be incorporated.
  • Depends how it is restrrained in a crash especialy one where the car overturns.
  • Yes, in our case a car bed was absolutely nesessary.

Most people were unaware of a car bed stroller product. No examples of such a product were recorded.

When asked if there was a gap in the market for a car bed stroller, the following answers were returned:

  • No, not for infants. As children get older and grow, there is a huge need for forward-facing, five-point harness restraint car seat options for larger children (I would argue for all children, however, particularly important for those with low muscle tone).
  • Definately, I don’t believe there are any products close to a car bed / stroller.
  • Yes I do, not everyone can afford a $2000 stroller. If a few simple features were to be added, everyone would benefit from this.
  • Yes, definitely listening to other parents.
  • Specialised.

One respondent commented, automobile manufacturers should be encouraged to provide more built-in carseats for larger children, too, and to provide them in more than one seat position in the car.


Project Idea: Medical Alerts

The idea for this project is to investigate whether there are new and more effective designs for medical alert information.  At present medical alerts come in the form of paper cards, bracelets and lockets. A paper card kept in a purse or wallet, whilst inexpensive, could be stolen or damaged, by water or fire. A bracelet or locket on the other hand may be difficult and costly to update if a patient’s medical status changes. None of these items allow for a huge amount of information to be stored. Would it be possible to re-invent medical alerts, so they are more user friendly, possibly using modern technology?

Medical alert products - would it be possible to re-invent medical alerts, so they are more user friendly, possibly using modern technology?

Medical alert products – would it be possible to re-invent medical alerts, so they are more user friendly, possibly using modern technology?

The most popular types of medical alerts were cards and bracelets. When asked about the positive and negative aspects of these, the responses included:

  • I ordered a bracelet with cute little smiley faces on it for my son. I bothered him and came off a lot. I would go with a simple band or a necklace.
  • I can’t see a negative aspect of my bracelet. I am an insulin dependent diabetic and that’s what it says. I also carry a card with my medications, dosages and other personal info.
  • Negative – cost, worry of loss of privacy. Positive – help at hand 24/7.
  • Need regular updating which is a negative.

Most people who answered questions on this topic, felt their medical alert product was suitable for their needs. However, most people also felt the product did not provide sufficient room to store all the information they considered necessary. Opinion was split on whether the products should contain basic minimal information or detailed information. Also on whether the information should be updated by a patient or health care professional.

Most people believed that the use of modern technology would be useful for storing emergency medical alert information. Suggested benefits included:

  • Fast transfer over phone / internet.
  • No identity theft if using the above method, faster responses to medical emergencies, all information accessible immediately.
  • It would be easily updateable and accessible.
  • Easily updated, accurate, can carry lots of information if necessary.
  • A lot of info can be stored in a small device.

There were however concerns about the use of technology:

  • I think something written is good enough, ie: a bracelet or pendant … not comfortable with the idea of a chip … too impersonal.
  • Privacy / security issues.
  • My greatest concern is the possibility of it containing information that is not uptodate. I would not want to register with a system that required me to update as I know myself well enough to know that it would end up on my to do list. In an emergency, I would hate to think medical personnel were working with ‘old news’. Unless the system was linked into our provincial health care e-network, I would be concerned.
  • If the device were to malfunction it could really cause alot of problems in an emergency situation.

Suggested ideas for the use of modern technology included:

  • Fingerprint identity.
  • ipod or mp3.
  • Memory stick.


Project Idea: Raising awareness of building access issues for the disabled

The idea behind this project is to see whether it might be possible to undertake a project to help raise awareness of the importance of access to building for the disabled.  Under the Disability Discrimination Act, service providers now have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the way they deliver their services, so that disabled people can use them. (Directgov). However, research at a local parade of shops, showed only one out of ten of the premises had made changes. Would it be possible to design a product to raise awareness of building access issues for the disabled?

Tim the Tortoise

Tim the Tortoise – one of the characters from the Creature Discomforts advertising campaign launched in 2007.  The advertisement highlights the problems faced by disabled people when buildings are not accessible to them.

Most people were aware of the Disability Discrimination Act or something similar where the question was answered by someone living outside of the UK and most people (although not by a huge margin) felt that service providers now make adjustments to their services so that disabled people can use them.

When asked to think about a location they knew well and state the percentage / number of buildings they considered to be accessible to all people, the answers varied considerably, with figures ranging from as little as 10% and as high as 80%. However, despite the seemingly positive responses, many issues were cited, these included:

  • Steps, steps steps and getting up high steps / opening heavy doors at the same time.
  • Not being able to get around the shops in a wheelchair because doors and aisles were too narrow or goods were placed in the middle of aisles.
  • Lack of clear signage.
  • Staff not trained to meet the needs of disabled customers.
  • No hearing loop.
  • Lack of pedestrain crossing points between major retail centres.

Canada was being praised as being a country that has come a long long way in terms of accessibility. A Canadian respondent stated ‘Our regular buses tilt to roll on wheelchairs and our subways have elevators. We have lots of automatic doors, handicapped parking, flat curbs, w/c washrooms. There is lots of room for improvements, but it is possible to have independence in a wheelchair in this city’.

Shops, restaurants and businesses were praised as being now being more aware, pulling out the stops to provide access to a building for example, carrying the person in over the threshold, finding an alternative flat route via the back of the building. However, there is still much room for improvement, one example cited a pizza restaurant with a bell outside the door that said ring bell for disabled access. The bell was on the front door which was up a step and when the bell was pressed the bell didn’t work.

Local Education Authorities also came in for criticism. However, it is not just the disabled who are affected by inaccessible buildings. One parent talked of the difficulty of getting up steps with a pram and the elderly with arthritis and joint pain also experience problems where no ramps or alternative entrances are available.

75% of those questioned, said they had never complained about an inaccessible building but some who had, had used DDA to get ramps into shops, and in one case an accessible toilet in a fast food restaurant.

People didn’t complain, as generally, it was felt that it wouldn’t make any difference. It was felt complaining to staff was pointless, because they did not have the authority to do anything. One respondent said, ‘if they welcomed disabled customers I would not have to complain, therefore I presume they do not like disabled people, so I will go somewhere else’.

Another parent, having previously fought the Local Education Authority and won felt unable to complain when the same situation occured again, feeling ‘beaten down by authorities. We didn’t have the time or energy to fight on this occassion, having fought and won a previous ‘battle’ to get our son into a junior school which wasn’t deemed suitable for disabled children’. The survey revealed that people wanted:

  • Ramps, wider doorways and aisles and in supermarkets for example how would someone in a wheelchair reach items on high up shelves without having to ask which is then taking away their independence.
  • Universal design with no stairs.
  • Disability equality training at induction then regularly throughout their career.
  • Level access.
  • Automatic or touch button doors as double fire doors are often rather heavy. These would also assist the elderly and people with buggies.
  • Clear signage with symbols.
  • Hand rails.
  • Lifts near front of building not at back so you have to negotiate all the way through the shop.

Most people agreed that a product to raise awareness of the issues of non accessible buildings would be a worthwhile project but felt that if business have not already complied, they probably would not be helpful and would ignore it unless there was the threat of legal action.

It was felt that cost, ignorance and lack of awareness were the main reasons that many businesses do not make their buildings accessible. One respondent said ‘ If you are not directly involved, you don’t think about it .. this is what we need to fix’. Another said there was a ‘false impression that it will be too costly – so doing nothing at all, when everyone can take small steps and make a big difference, second false impression that disabled access is all about wheelchairs’. Councils were cited as being to blame for the large number of businesses that are not disabled friendly, because they have the power to enforce the law but do not do so.


Project Idea: The Trouble with Bottles

Muscle weakness and wasting in hands is common in people with neuromuscular conditions, the elderly and people with arthritis. Child proof bottles such as those that contain medicines and household cleaners, can be particularly difficult for such people, as the user has to hold the bottle still, turn the lid and apply pressure to the sides. Would it be possible to design a bottle opener to allow those in need of its contents in but keep those at risk from its contents, for example young children, out?

Household cleaners such as these are difficult for the elderly and disabled to open.
Household cleaners such as these are difficult for the elderly and disabled to open.

The majority of people who answered questions on this topic had or knew people who had trouble with bottles. The problems included:

  • Unable to get to get to contents.
  • Feeling of frustration and lack of independence.
  • Reliance on others because of having to ask others to open bottles.
  • Restrictive choice of products if person lives on their own with no one to help them.
  • Having to find innovative ways to open bottles for example having to put the bottle under arm pit, putting the bottle in a door frame to apply pressure, using a knife, holding the bottle under running hot water until it loosens.
  • Takes much longer to open the bottle.
  • Embarrassment if unable to open product in public.

Most people had not tried using products designed to help with opening bottles but those who had found them ineffective and found that you still needed a reasonably tight grip to use.

One respondent suggested it would be better to use something with a level (handle) almost like a ‘spanner’ so that it can be ‘pushed’ to one side, rather than a ‘twist action’ which is difficult. The head sits over the bottle top and you twist. If bottle tops were standard – maybe with large rivetted design – the cap of the ‘spanner’ could fit (almost like a jigsaw) over the bottle and then be pushed to one side.

Opinion was split on whether manufacturers had a responsibility to produce bottles that everyone could open and also whether manufacturers should produce different types of bottles to accomodate the needs of everyone. Respondents understood the need for child proof bottles where harmful substances were involved but it was commented that for essential items such as medication and water, bottles that everyone could open were a must. One respondent suggested, for medicines, a swipe card activated bottle that a patient could take when collecting a prescription.

Project Idea: All Terrain Motorised Vehicle for a Child with a Disability

The idea of this project was to explore the idea of designing an all terrain motorised vehicle for a child with a neuromuscular condition; something as simple as a powered scooter, trike or adapted quad bike.

The boy who drew this picture for is 10 years old and is on the autistic spectrum. He has problems with balance and gait. In his drawing he has chosen to depict himself in a go cart and he said, 'I could pedal on the flat bit but I had to push it up the ramp. I did try to do it like the other children but I didn't go as fast. It was fun!'

The boy who drew this picture is 10 years old and is on the autistic spectrum. He has problems with balance and gait. In his drawing he has chosen to depict himself in a go cart and he said,  I could pedal on the flat bit but I had to push it up the ramp. I did try to do it like the other children but I didn

Most of the people who answered questions on this topic had experience of or knew someone who had used a motorised buggy, scooter or wheelchair to get around and most said that the item was suitable for their needs.

Good aspects of the product included:

  • Good power and tyres.
  • Assistance provided with mobility – allowed person to do more than they would otherwise have energy for if they had to walk.
  • Able to go to the mall independently.
  • Light in weight.
  • Good motors, comfortable seating, safety, seat lifting.
  • Ease of use.
  • Able to travel long distances without recharging.
  • Nice colour (silver).
  • Narrow (so can get through standard doors).
  • Large wheels, which ‘soften’ ride
  • Headlights and indicators – very good and popular.

Negative aspects of products included:

  • Having to use the thing.
  • Very heavy.
  • Recharging the batteries and short battery life.
  • Parking it in the house.
  • Risk of failure while on an outing.
  • Cost.
  • Transporting the item.
  • Difficult to store.
  • Need ramp or hoist to lift into boot of car.
  • Not all-terrain.
  • No seat riser (to help with user’s difficulty in getting in and out of seat).
  • Push lever to operate – difficult for someone with weak thumbs.
  • Seat was uncomfortable for long periods of time.

The following features were suggested to make the products more suitable:

  • Reduce weight yet heavy-duty enough for outdoor use on uneven pavement, etc.
  • Increased battery life.
  • Easy back-up or recharge system.
  • Ability to collapse / retract so it requires smaller parking area indoors and is more compact for transport.
  • More room for parcels and dogs.
  • Massage, heat, also possibility to change sating position.
  • Ability to adapt for all terrain use, for access to coastal paths and beaches.

When asked if the products were suitable for outdoor use, a range of responses were received including:

  • Yes on hard dry paths and slopes.
  • Would not work on rough terrain very well, which, in our case, limits us from attending an outdoor festival that we used to frequent.
  • Yes on outdoors, no on rugged surfaces.
  • Within the realms of common sense.
  • It would have been OK for town use only.
  • Not off road.

In order to make the product more suitable for outdoor use, the following ideas were suggested:

  • Larger wheels, like a BMX to cope with undulating surface.
  • Altered center of gravity.
  • More powerful motor but it would still need to be easy to transport
  • Plastic skeleton.
  • Easy to clean – something which can be hosed down afterwards.
  • Lightweight.
  • Good balance (ie – won’t tip to one side when climbing uneven surfaces) You would need a type of ‘bike’ or something with larger wheels .
  • Something where carer could help over uneven ground too – so handles.
  • Something which is lightweight for easy transport

The following wish list has been compiled from the Desigining for People Survey Results:

  • Vehicle must be lightweight, suggested weight 10 kg.
  • Must be easy for someone with muscle weakness to control.
  • The wheels need to be large, thick and puncture proof too, like a BMX bike and able to cope with undulating surfaces.
  • Motorised, so that the carer does not have to push and to give the user independence but with handles so that carer could push if necessary.
  • Needs to travel at approximately 4 – 6 miles per hour.
  • Sufficient power to go up hills and lots of traction.
  • The acceleration control needs to be designed, so that it can be squeezed with all four fingers to bring towards the thumb or even a ‘joystick’ control, like on power chairs and the acceleration should not be dependent on turning the wrist but designed like a motorcycle, ATV or Skidoo.
  • Heavy duty enough to be used outside on rough terrain, coastal paths, beaches, slopes, muddy fields, rugged surfaces, maybe even go in the sea or something that could be adapted to be all terrain.
  • Weather resistant with a cover to protect from the elements if necessary.
  • High off the ground, so user does not get splashed and can go through puddles.
  • Good balance so it won’t tip to one side when climbing uneven surfaces.
  • Small / narrow for parking, hiking trails and storing at home.
  • Comfy padded seating.
  • Neck, trunk and hip support.
  • Seating with riser function to assist with standing / a scissor jack seat to look over walls and get bearing.
  • Option to change seating height.
  • Wrap around seating for floppy bodies.
  • 5 point harness system for floppy bodies / strap / seat belt.
  • Possibility for additional companion seating.
  • Massage / heat function built into supportive seating.
  • Long battery life and / or easy backup re-charge facility.
  • Breaks down for compact transportation.
  • Packs compactly into back of vehicle when broken down.
  • Carry case / box for when broken down, so that pieces do not roll around in back of car and go missing.
  • Must be safe and durable.
  • Easy to clean / hose down.
  • Design is important, especially for older children who are unwilling to use products because of what others might think – must be funky looking so child will want to use it.

Other comments about this project included:

  • Powered mobility is key to children with neuromuscular disorders and there should be more options out there.
  • Would be great to see something on the market. The Tektronic(?) is nice looking but not motorized. I haven’t tried it on all-terrain yet so can’t comment. Nice lightweight materials used, good wheels. A motor would be great!

The following products, currently available, were said to come nearest to requirements:

2 Responses to “Project Ideas”

  1. tonilouisa Says:

    From Kelvin Mok, May 15, 2008 at 12:53.

    I would prefer a memory stick on my keychain. The plastic stick housing will contain my picture on one face and minimal medical alert information on the other, such as the phone of the first, second and third person to contact.

    Personal information on memory files can be organized into three levels of privacy. The first level is absolutely vital information such as what a layperson can do for me in a medical emergency while waiting for professional assistance. This will be on a WORD document, a program that every computer has.

    The second level will be information accessible by any hospital, doctor or emergency service personnel.

    The third level will be information for one’s own relatives (a living will?), doctor, lawyer and so on. I don’t believe anyone needs unbreakable encryption. I just want enough security to deter busybodies.

  2. tonilouisa Says:

    From Kelvin Mok, May 15, 2008 at 1:08 am.

    Older folks with disabilities can be presumed not to have young children living with them. If they did opening containers wouldn’t have been a problem. Kids can open anything. For child proofing put the items in a lockable cabinet.

    The need for containers with good seals is therefore the need to seal the contents against spoilage and the need to avoid spills. The product I’d like to have will be a plastic pop top that can be opened with compressed air. It can then be resealed using a lever press to snap it back on. This is quite easily implemented by a manufacturer coming up with an attractive set of containers that one can transfer contents of foodstuffs, liquids, etc. from.

    If some container needs to be opened in public just ask for help. No one is going to refuse.


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