Assistive Technology Projects
Head Support for MND
Many people with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) develop weak neck muscles, leading to pain and restricted movement, as well as problems with swallowing, breathing and communication. Ideally a neck collar would help to alleviate these problems. However neck collars currently available are of limited use for people with MND, and are often rejected by them. D4D, SITraN and Sheffield Hallam University have now been awarded an NIHR i4i grant to develop a new neck collar that will be aesthetically pleasing and comfortable, as well as functional, for people with MND. By having better neck support, we expect that MND patients' neck muscles will function for longer, the need for certain care interventions will be delayed or reduced, quality of life will be improved and activities of daily living will continue for longer. The collar will have a wider impact on the numerous clinical conditions associated with neck weaknesses.
Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) or Brittle Bone Disease is a genetic disorder which affects the development of bones from birth. It causes weakness in bones and loose joints and in severe cases can heavily affect stature, breathing and the curvature of the spine. In many cases young children suffering from the disease are confined to an electric wheelchair to prevent fractures. However, the use of a drug called Pamidronate means children can be treated from birth, develop mobility more rapidly and move on to walking with the help of a walking frame. This led to two engineering students from the University of Sheffield to design a special walking frame for children too small for normal walking aids. A collaboration with D4D and Sheffield based company Kingkraft led to the production and CE marking of working prototypes. There are now 15 Kingkraft rollators in constant use at Sheffield Children's Hospital.
Dignity Bidet Commode
Unmet need: People with disabilities or neurological impairment who require use of a commode often have difficulty undertaking intimate self-care after toileting. The loss of independence can have profound effects on an individual's feeling of self-worth and toileting is a task that many carers, professional or otherwise, feel uncomfortable providing.
Solution: D4D helped Mr Speechley to develop The Dignity Bidet Commode. The Dignity Bidet Commode is self-controlled, can wash and dry its user without the need for assistance and offers a dignified alternative to the traditional product. D4D helped Mr Speechley to develop his prototype with a team of clinical design engineers, and assisted with ensuring safety and hygiene standards were met.
Unmet need: Paediatric wheelchairs used by children with severe disabilities and their carers are often large and unpleasant to the eye as they need to incorporate the most complex equipment such as ventilators, oxygen cylinders, and large batteries. An improved chair design, whilst still incorporating the equipment needs, would allow them to leave the hospital and be able to get out and about safely, confidently and more independently.
Solution: In collaboration with Frazer-Nash Consultancy, D4D gave children and their carers the opportunity to take part in a Dragon's Den style workshop, hosted by the charity Whizz-Kidz, with the aim of gathering their views and requirements for the development of a new wheelchair concept design.
Unmet need: Children and adults who have severe physical or learning disabilities require support for their body to avoid an uncomfortable and difficult flight. Fear about the lack of provision of seating supports in flight can be a significant factor that prevents families and individuals from spending their holidays abroad.
Solution: D4D were able to support the charity MERU to collaborate with a number of major airline companies (Monarch, British Airways and Virgin) to collect the postural requirements of individuals and their families who have flown or wish to fly, with the ultimate aim of developing and manufacturing a seat insert that responds to their needs, and that is in compliance with the airline regulations.
This lead to the development of the TravelChair, a unique chair that fits into standard airline seats to provide postural support for disabled children (between the ages of 3 – 11) dependant on height and weight), giving them the opportunity to fly. The TravelChair has been developed with advice from the CAA and EASA and is being launched on 22nd May 2012.