What it does
Samarth, helps in shifting wheelchair users from wheelchair to any other medium e.g. bed, car and vice versa in an easy, safe and convenient way. Also, it drastically reduces the efforts of care giver in handling of patient, especially during transfer.
Anupama, a 42 year-old homemaker’s life changed in 2012, when she met with a brutal accident to become a paraplegic individual. We not only witnessed her affected mobility but also the mental trauma she suffered owing to extensively exhausting struggle, every single time she had to shift. On interacting with individuals at the Cheshire Home for Disability, we learnt that there is lack of an effective solution which could efficiently shift patients to and from wheelchairs addressing our Indian context. With all this in mind, we started our journey to find an answer which could make these lives a little burden free and independent.
How it works
This mechanism is about 2 components of wheelchair, a modified Big Wheel and modified armrests. The 3 way semi openable big wheel allows flexible positioning of the wheelchair and closer proximity to destination mediums. It also increases the usable space for shifting. An intuitive mechanism of turning the arm-rest outwards further facilitates an inbuilt transfer board. The flipping onto other side makes it stable as it is supported by the destination medium on the other side. This results in substantially reduced efforts of the patients and caregivers to shift. Also push pull lock mechanisms for the wheel and armrest are designed to suit the low finger motor controls of the users. The design can be conveniently attached to existing wheelchairs making it available to larger economic groups. To add to the utility of the component, by rotating the armrest 270 degree clockwise and turning it outwards, the armrest forms into a multipurpose table as well.
We followed the Stanford Bio Design process. Our visit to hospitals and care homes gave us deeper understanding of issues faced by the users like fear of falling, portability and Repetitive Strain Injury for the caregivers. Empathizing with patients and caregivers, we learnt about multiple challenges to critically evaluate our previous design using roller mechanism which fell apart. On redefining our perspective, to achieve something simple and intuitive to operate and easily retrofitted, we began brainstorming. The ideas revolved in merging desirability, feasibility and viability of the solution. Our ideation process led to the innovation of a foldable armrest which could modulate into a transfer board by simple mechanisms. We further modulated the wheel for creating space to facilitate a convenient lateral shift. Several versions of the wheel were made to tested for strength and stability, eventually leading to full scale wooden prototype. The arm-rest prototyping was another self-invention as we formulated an additional use of a table. After exploring mechanisms and with number of trials, we came up with a final version. Testing of the final prototype on various mediums was a successful and much desired experience for the users.
How it is different
Samarth has many features which makes it unique from the available options. To begin with, the innovative design of the wheel which allows the wheelchair to come very close to the transfer medium and also creates space for lateral shifting. Innovating a convertible arm-rest not only solves issues like portability and baggage but facilitates an intuitive easier solution to the elder generations for use. The design is a retrofittable component which can be installed in existing wheelchairs makes it scalable for individuals with limited resources and makes the product more desirable.
Our first full-scale prototype successfully completed its initial testing requirements. We wish to explore the materials for wheel and more simple and intuitive mechanisms to make our system a modular one, so that it can fit easily with broader spectrum of wheel chair with minimum or no changes. An everyday activity which is nothing less than a challenge proves the extreme need for a transfer assist device. With the launch of Samarth, we wish to make the wheelchair users slightly more independent and bring a positive change in and around their lives.