A modular kit of interchangeable mobility aid parts for everything from crutches to walking frames is set to change the lives of some of the world’s poorest people with disabilities, thanks to a design engineering student from Brunel University London. Cara O’Sullivan, 21, from Battle, East Sussex, realized the opportunity after a year’s placement with the Medical Engineering Resource Unit (MERU), a unique charity in Epsom, Surrey. Cara explains:
“Whilst visiting Kiya Survivor’s physiotherapy center in Peru, I realized that while the developed world can be generous in donating unwanted walkers and crutches, they come from a wide variety of different manufacturers and so perfectly good parts from one walking aid can’t be used to repair another one. Back at Brunel, when it came to developing a project for my final year, it was clear that I could use my design and engineering skills to help not only the youngsters I had met in Peru, but those in similar circumstances around the world. The key element is to simplify everything – walking sticks, crutches and walkers – to design core interchangeable components which work together like Meccano and, just like the toy, can be easily and quickly disassembled and re-used. By being so adaptable, the walking aid will be able to meet the user’s exact needs and provide the required support throughout changes in their condition. The system is more sustainable and cost effective because the walking aid will gradually evolve with the user rather than having to get an entirely new aid each time their condition changes.”
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