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Help Improve our Project for Mobility Challenged People

  1. Dec 26, 2015 #1
    Dear all

    We (Maor Rosenberg and my co Vered Waksman) are Materials Engineering students at Ben Gurion University.
    We are working on a project in the field of mobility equipment for people who are physically challenged (as elderly and temporary/permanently mobility challenged people).
    As we work on this project we believe that we, as students, do not have enough knowledge in the field of mechanism and the human factor. So we would appreciate your professional help!

    In our project we will build a kit that will be plugged on the typical (and the most primitive) walking aid (an illustration is attached down).
    The most important component of this kit is a product that will make this walking aid to be able to help the user to go up/down stairs.

    The product is a telescopic leg. The leg is made with “stop points” located in the most typical and standard heights of stairs. The user will be able to control and adjust the legs with bicycle brakes (or other kind of a brake), located wherever the user wants them to be.

    After it is being plugged to the walking aid, it is very simple:
    1. The user puts the walking aid on the next stair.
    2. Once the user pulls the brakes, the two telescopic legs are released and fall to the previous lower stair.
    3. When the user reaches the last stair – he puts the equipment on the floor and pulls the brakes again – now the walking aid weight makes it to fall down to the ground, and closes the telescopic legs.

    ***While going downstairs: the user uses the devise in the same direction as going upstairs.

    We will appreciate advises and ideas in making this product better: from the right kind of material to make the legs, through mechanism and human factor, and anything else you can think about.

    Thank you so much,
    Maor and Vered

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2015 #2


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    I applaud your goal and sensitivity to this issue but I think you need to do more on-site investigation of the problem before proceeding with developing the type of device you proposing.
    At this point I would strongly recommend that you and your partner take some time visiting one or more of the local multi-room independent living facilities, that are surely in your general area, to observe the abilities, limitations and challenges of those living there with walkers and visit with the caretakers at those facilities.
    Over a period of years I spent sustained periods visiting my elderly mother in such an independent living facility (which was wisely equipped with a set elevators) and had many opportunities to observe how reduced mobility and leg strength also effects the balancing ability which is critical to navigating stairways.
    Based upon my observations, I believe that you will come to the realization that the best, but still not truly safe, stair assistance fixture for any of these individuals is a sturdy set hand rails rather than any form of mobile walker.
  4. Dec 26, 2015 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Well said, JBA. Stairs are a very difficult challenge. I agree that a sturdy handrail is important, and the best hope you have for descending the stairs with a modified walker would be to have the walker lock into the handrail and provide sturdy support to the person during the descent (with brakes and some sort of rolling arrangement).

    As for ascending the stairs, usually the disabled person will need some sort of lift assist (either human or electrically powered), as well as balance assistance.
  5. Dec 27, 2015 #4
    JBA and Berkeman, thank you so much for your insights!
    You are absolutely right, and we are, alongside with finding the professionals in the field of engineering, having a similar conversation with physical therapists, npo's of disabled people, and doctors.
    This project is not a fourth year one, and the main goal for it (in this semester) is to understand if we do have something in our hands.
    What I mean is that we need to be able to know if professionals can help us to shape something that has a potential in the (near) future.

    So if you do think that you can help us "getting in shape", although it is very initial idea, it will be awesome.

  6. Dec 27, 2015 #5


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    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Before you design the "brake" system and so on, it would be useful to test how your target group would use such a device and how useful it is: build a prototype where the leg length is fixed to the step height, or adjustable in the same (slow) way crutches are, and give your test persons those at the bottom/top of stairs. See how it works.

    I can imagine extending the system crutches use, where the pin is retractable via the "brakes".
  7. Dec 27, 2015 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    So based on our feedback so far, how would you modify your initial proposal? :smile:
  8. Dec 27, 2015 #7
    So far so good. :)
    Right now I believe that thinking about a kind of a brake system for the wheels in the front side of the device will be useful.
    In the telescopic legs themselves, we try to look what kind of mechanism will be the safest and will suit us the best. Right now I believe that luggage's hands mechanism will be the best for us.
    Thanks for you help meanwhile :)
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