Millions of people suffer from motor impairment, so why are so few effective devices available? Some inventions never make it to the market and people are offered standard mechanical solutions rather than exploring alternatives, says Rune Thorsen, one of the creators of WeHandU. Rune, together with Alexander Shumsky, decided to explore those alternatives. Instead, of the one size-fits all approach; they ventured into helping people invent their own solutions to improve their health and mobility, while assisting them with knowledge and skills to provide a gateway for reaching their objectives in a scientifically sound way. That is the approach of WeHandU, with advancement in technology, everyday people can produce highly sophisticated devices.
Let’s Meet WeHandU
Rune Thorsen, M.Sc.e.e, Industrial Ph.D. Senior Researcher at Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi ONLUS, Milan, Italy, has been with hospitals and universities in Denmark, Holland and England.
His speciality is rehabilitation engineering with focus on the restoration of motor ability in physically challenged people such as spinal cord injured and stroke victims.
Alexander Shumsky, B.A. Designer at Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi ONLUS with the biomedical technology department is responsible for the development of the ergonomic component of an assistive device for restoring hand function.
Together, a fluent path was formed, driven by coincidences, opportunities and a passion for helping people in an open environment, blending technology with creativity. This path led to collaborating with Constantino Buongiorno, Engineer at WeMake. WeHandU, a collaborative space for creation of assistive devices where targeted participants are the centre of open-source projects. A platform where people with motor impairment can meet, collaborate and work together to create solutions contrary to the hospital experience. This model will explore ways to transfer research results directly to the end-user. Ideas will be challenged and transformed into methods and assistive technology for daily living. Most of today’s devices are designed for the typical, able-bodied user; for the most part and left to adapt as best they can.
WeHandU offers an alternative approach tailored to an individual’s needs and can be adjusted to accommodate varying capabilities. People with the same medical diagnosis can have a wide range of motor capabilities. People challenged by Multiple Sclerosis, stroke patients and persons with spinal cord injury will find help collaborating with clinicians as well as people with ‘soft’ skills in the socializing context of a makerspace. Together with physiotherapists, engineers and designers, researchers and healthcare professionals realizing solutions to personal needs in the form of assistive devices will be born.
A cooperative makerspace to create devices for use in everyday life, improving or maintaining individual functional capabilities. WeHandU, will address the challenges of mobility and demonstrate how these challenges can be resolved by helping people's creativity in a social environment. Challenges people often meet is the need for adaptation of tools to be able to perform day-to-day task. As abilities change, WeHandU laboratory will be able implement such changes.
With rapid-prototyping tech, 3d printing and a host of other modern technologies allows creative people to create a bridge for effective low-cost collaboration. WeHandU, a community endowed with both care problems and care solutions, equipped with collective smarts and open knowledge, promises to give new hope to paraplegic patients. This maker-lab, with a peer-to peer approach, will not only represent the research world but also create a user experience, with an open-spirited approach.
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