Category Archives: Design

“Pimp My Zimmer”!?

Care home residents across Britain are partnering with local schoolchildren to decorate their walkers.  The festive makeovers are part of a project called “Pimp My Zimmer,” which aims to reduce falls in care homes. People with dementia sometimes have difficulty recognizing their own frames, so the personalization of devices helps residents remember to use them. One care home even claims the project has reduced falls by 60%! Check it out here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/health-42284621/pimp-my-zimmer-project-reduces-falls

‘Why are all walking frames grey?’Angela Donlevy, manager at Chalkney House care home in White Colne, wondered to herself… Shortly after, this project was born and they started seeing results.

“About a year ago I woke up after having a vivid dream about walking frames and I remember asking myself why they were all grey. Suddenly it occurred to me that brighter colours would be more recognisable to people with cognitive impairments such as dementia.” – Angela Donlevy

I always get really excited when I see people “pimp their rides”. In my own research, I’ve found people do this for fun, function (including safety) and fashion.  This project brings to light some additional benefits that the personalization of assistive devices can have in certain settings (such as reducing falls for residents with dementia). AWESOME!

Want to see more cool personalized devices? Head over to my “I like your ride!” page to meet some fantastic people and their amazing personalized mobile creations, here.

Keep moving!

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Filed under Articles, Design, Mobility Aids, personalizing, Posts

A bit SHOUT – OUT to Tetra’s Volunteers!

Back in January, I wrote about the awesome TetraNation. In case you missed it, they’re a volunteer-led community of engineers and technically-minded people who help invent some pretty creative mobility solutions for people living with disabilities.

To celebrate their 30th anniversary and the great work of their dedicated volunteers, Tetra is holding a contest to showcase Tetra projects from chapters across the country!

Our world isn’t always built with accessibility in mind, and mobility devices (particularly those that are customized/personalized) are often really expensive. That’s what’s so amazing about these projects: they hinge on a DIY foundation to make accessible adaptations affordable AND individually tailored.

I’d like to give a huge shout-out to all of TetraNation’s incredible volunteers for making a real difference in people’s lives for three decades. THANK YOU!

Voting will be open until March 31, so check out the videos that have been posted so far and get INSPIRED! You can vote here: http://tetranation.org/video/.

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Filed under Accessibility, Barriers, competition, Design, DIY, invention, Mobility Aids, personalizing, Posts, Projects, Wheelchairs

Independence with a splash of colour

 

Ruth nearly ran me over recently she was going so fast. A speed demon at 91, Ruth told me when she had to give up her car – “they tested my eyes and right there on the spot told me to hand in my license – ha!” – she got herself a scooter to stay independent. Ruth obviously enjoys colour and has some rockin’ style. She crocheted her seat cover herself – “it’s pretty isn’t it?”

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Filed under Accessibility, Design, DIY, I Like Your Ride!, Mobility Aids, personalizing

GO: At the intersection of 3D printing and wheelchair customization

3D printing technology has made great strides over the past several years, and a project from Layer Design recently caught my interest.

The project, GO, is the world’s first partially 3D printed wheelchair. This made-to-measure 3D printed wheelchair is specifically designed to fit the individual needs of a wide range of disabilities and lifestyles.

The GO leaves behind the medical appearance of current wheelchairs and replaces it with a cleaner, sleeker aesthetic that allows for size variation in a more stylish form. How do they do it? Individuals use an accompanying app to enter personal biometric information to create a “perfect fitting chair.” The seat and foot bay are later created using 3D printing technology based on that information. Check it out in the video below – in addition to the chairs, there is a super cool bike frame.

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Filed under Design, Mobility Aids, Wheelchairs

The Spirit of the Animals is in the Wheels

image001

Taking a ride with some of my favorite passengers – my sis, mother-in-law and partner

Transportation challenges are rooted in a variety of social and political environments.

Take for example, the need for safe and reliable transportation for students in Detroit to get to after-school tutoring and education programming (offered by the nonprofit learning hub 826 Michigan).

Regardless of the ‘problem,’ to my mind innovation and creativity and FUN are the ‘best practices’ for addressing them.

For example, check out Dave Eggers solution – with fabrication support from Juan Martinez and the help of metal artist Ben Wolf and the San Francisco art production shop Gizmo, Eggers created a small herd of animal-inspired vehicles. Focussing on the intersection of transportation and education to build awareness AND present solutions to these challenges the herd was recently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) where I had a chance to try them out.

These mobility devices are beautifully crafted with the safety of students in mind. But what is best about them, of course, is how fun they are! Can you imagine how unbelievably cool and exciting it would be to ride to an after school education program in this thing?

This project reminds me of the Fun Theory. Believing that the easiest way to change things is by making it simple and fun, Volkswagen’s Fun Theory has inspired some amazing designs like the Piano Stairs. It’s a classic and one of my personal favorites!

Eggers’ animal-inspired vehicles, the Piano Stairs and other innovations like these are great examples of how “fun” can be used to address physical and social concerns.

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Filed under Accessibility, Art, Barriers, Design, invention, Posts, Projects

Reimagining Disability Through Art

Last fall I attended ArtPrize, a supercool festival that turns three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids into a giant gallery of art. My fav was a collaborative DisArtSiTE:LAB exhibit (see photos below).

DisArt and SiTE:LAB are working together to create art experiences that transcend normal expectations of audience, space, and design. HYBRID STRUCTURES is an invitation to see and experience reality differently. As an experiment of accessibility and inclusion, the ramp demonstrates that art has a powerful role to play in the way we view abilities and disabilities of all types. It is our hope that the experience of being on top of HYBRID STRUCTURES transforms access itself into an art form by celebrating architecture that welcomes all users.

– Curatorial Statement

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I followed up my visit with some more research on DisArt. Their aim is to change perceptions about disability (and accessibility) through art. They’re driven by the belief that communities are stronger when they intentionally include and recognize the gifts and talents of persons living with disabilities, and their artistic projects help increase the visibility of people with disabilities.

What’s particularly cool about this ramp is the way that it gets transformed into the stage for SiTE:LAB’s ELEVATE: A DisArt Fashion Show. This fashion show pushes expectations of design and fashion in hopes of redefining sentiments of style, access, and bodies. It celebrates disability, inclusivity, movement, and art. Check out the highlights from 2016 (which I sadly missed seeing in person)! It’s awesome!

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Filed under Accessibility, Art, Articles, Barriers, Design, Photos, Posts, Projects

TETRA – Volunteers working WITH people to CUSTOMIZE assistive devices according to THEIR needs

For 30 years, the Tetra Society of North America has been helping remedy real life problems for people with disabilities by creating customized assistive devices. Their primary goal is to reduce societal and environmental barriers through the creation of these devices while increasing independence for their clients in the process.

This nonprofit organization recruits skilled volunteers who are dedicated to fulfilling the unique—and sometimes challenging—requests that they receive. The projects they take on tackle barriers to mobility, personal care, and communications. They also help provide increased access within households and communities so that individuals can lead more independent lives. Depending on their needs, requests submitted by Tetra clients vary in complexity.

hip-supportFor example, one request was for a client with Cerebral Palsy looking to go on a long distance trip with their son on a plane. They were unable to sit in a regular plane seat, so they reached out to Tetra’s group of expert volunteers to see if anyone could build an exact replica of the client’s seating system that would allow them to travel by plane.

Another request was from a gentleman looking for assistance modifying his walker to include a semi-seat or hip support system to make walking easier (image to the right demonstrates suggested modifications).

Anyone can request assistance from their local Tetra chapter (there are 45 across Canada and the USA). When Tetra receives a request, they forward the general information to their cohort of volunteers to see if anyone is able to work on the project! I recently signed up to receive requests as part of Tetra Toronto.

Independence is linked to mobility, and it’s great to see an organization (and so many hardworking volunteers) coming together to address the mobility needs of members in their communities. According to their website, Tetra Society has completed 5,000 projects since they started up (many of which can be found and viewed via their online database).

More videos like the one featured above can also be viewed on their website here.

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Filed under Accessibility, Articles, Barriers, Design, DIY, invention, Mobility Aids, Posts, Projects, Wheelchairs

“Designing for Dignity” – Tackling the Ableist and Ageist Fashion Industry

I hate uncomfortable clothing and have never understood the ‘hurts to be beautiful’ adage. Anything (pants, underpants, socks, whatever) I put on that bunches, creeps, or stretches too tight during my usual day of biking, walking, playing, and working will quickly find its way to the local thrift store!

IMG_8790Much of Western fashion tends to be designed for standing bodies without much consideration for people using mobility devices like wheelchairs and often favours form over function and comfort, too. I have to admit that in the past I didn’t think about how most of the clothing sold today would be SO uncomfortable for people using wheelchairs and other mobility devices. I should have figured this out sooner, as I know that certain clothes do not translate well when I ride my bike – shirts that are too short and low cut pants mean my back ‘bits’ are routinely exposed to the elements!

This is why I’ve been so inspired by Izzy Camilleri’s work, particularly her “Designs for Sitting”.

I saw her show “Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting,” at the ROM last summer and was blown away by how beautiful–and sexy–the clothing is. It really inspired me to think critically about the relationship between fashion, mobility, and accessibility. It’s not surprising at all that her exhibit won The Richard Martin Exhibition Award by unanimous decision!

Others tackling this issue include Gary Markle and Glen Hougan from NSCAD University who is working on a clothing line that meets the needs of older people as well as those with mobility challenges. The line is called ‘Worn Well’ and is concerned with designing for dignity for a population often unconsidered in the fashion market. Read more about the clothing line project here.

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The “coolest” mobility device

Spotted on Toronto Island - renovations to this old ice cream cart make this one of the "coolest" (smiley face) mobility devices I've seen in awhile!

Spotted on Toronto Island – renovations to this old ice cream cart make this one of the “coolest” (smiley face) mobility devices I’ve seen in awhile!

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April 7, 2016 · 3:41 pm

Pimped out plow!

Meet Justin Anderson.

This Iraq war veteran is giving back to his community in an incredible way. After coming up with the clever idea of attaching a snow blade onto his wheelchair, Justin hit the nearby streets to help make the sidewalks safer for his neighbourhood during the winter.

“I had about half a dozen people stop me and ask if they could take a picture because they had never seen … a chair like this before.”

What’s particularly awesome about his pimped out ride is the way that it challenges other people’s typical perceptions of individuals using mobility aids and devices. Instead of Justin being dependent on others, the members of his community become dependent on him to perform this service. Way to go!

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Filed under Accessibility, Design, Inspirational, Personal Stories, personalizing, Posts, Videos, Wheelchairs