What assistive technology would you like to help cope with your disability?

I would like to take the opportunity to start a brainstorming style discussion regarding assistive technology, more specifically assistive technology that perhaps does not yet exist or requires improvements to be more useful and/or less costly.

I feel as though I should explain a little about me and where this is all coming from (appologies for the long post)…

The idea for this discussion is stemming from a perhaps slightly idealistic desire to help make the world a little better for those with disabilities, and perhaps in the future for myself… I also have ms. For me symptoms started at 17 with retrobulbar neuritis (which left permanent damage), and I was diagnosed 4 years later when things started to get fairly bad. I had a couple of years filled with what seemed like one relapse after another, with fairly slow recovery for most of them. This involved everything from sensory issues, tremor, loss of fine motor control in hands, pain, fatigue, ‘brain fog’, depression, bodily function issues and mobility problems. This led to me losing my job as I was unable to perform my duties.

It’s probably no surprise that this all hit me quite hard; I let it defeat me for quite a long time.

However I eventually learned how to cope and come to terms with it all (both physically and emotionally). Luckily the relentless relapse cycle was broken, with most of my symptoms fading.

This prompted me to steer my life and career path in a new direction. I finally got around to ending my gap ‘year’ (more like 4) after college, and I started a robotics degree.

I have spent the last few years working my way through the course, striving to do as well as I can. I am now taking a year out to do a research placement in a robotics laboratory. I am now beginning to think and plan which specific direction to steer my future career.

I am thinking that I would love to go into research involving medical assistive devices to help combat physical disabilities, and I have had some discussions with my supervisor regarding how to move onto doing a PhD.

So what I am looking for now is an idea to help open the doors that I need to make this happen.
I figure where better to get ideas than from the community that I would like to help!

To begin with I will need an idea to take through the ‘proof of concept’ phase while I develop my final year project, and if all goes well, with

a lot of work and luck, I might be able to find the funding and supervisors to turn it into a PhD.
Luckily the scope of my course content is quite extensive, so there are no bad ideas!

I look forward to any and all ideas,

Thank you!

I’ll kick this one off for you. My wife and I have said for years that what would be really useful would be some kind of ‘Bonking’ machine. I’ve never seen any advertised and even Tesco didn’t stock anything remotely useful. It would have to take weights up to 20 stone, and not be fastened to the ceiling 'cos mine will come crashing down on me!

@Robin of Sherwoood, I think the demand for this would be limited.

I would like a robot that could cook.

Dear Robotic,

I think the Japanese are the world leaders in this area, and I saw a TV programme recently which featured an elderly man wearing a lightweight robotic suit carrying out gardening duties that I coukd not do as my legs buckle if I put pressure on my quadriceps. I thought I would like something that can support your legs and bottom, which would enable me to walk which in turn would build up my leg muscles. I can still walk a bit. I wish you all the best in this venture, Peter.

I would like some sort of stabliser like kids have on bikes so I can actually walk in a straight line and go around a corner without leaning - but then again if they cant get a supermarket trolley to go in a straight line it’s a big ask.

Such a thing does exist - sort of like a supported hammock cum chair that the gentleman lies down on with his lady underneath, so that he can move back and forth.

I’m trying to remember where I saw it last, and will carry on thinking and report back if and when the glimmer of a memory bursts into summat more useful!

Lolli xx

Google for Intimate Rider and you’ll find the appropriate equipment (that I completely misremembered) - if that’s what you mean by ‘bonking machine’, of course!

Lolli xx

How about an adaptation of a Steadycam (beloved of TV cameramen) to stop us falling so often?


The Wee Wifey got me an iKettle for Christmas and just waiting for it to be delivered: http://www.firebox.com/product/6068/iKettle

Not really assistive, just lazy and uber geeky, but the idea behind it is fantastic. There are 13 pieces of tech in my house that are connected to the Internet, and I’d love to have everything running wirelessly in my house to a common standard. Even in my car my phone connects by Bluetooth and I can use voice commands to answer/make calls and read/reply to texts etc.

So for me, personally, it’s about how to integrate existing tech into my life. For example, a voice assisted house where you can close the curtains, start the shower, boil the kettle etc. by asking for it to happen. My car is keyless and as long as I have the key in a pocket it uses proximity sensors to unlock and start the car, I don’t even need to put it into the car. Why not have something similar for door locks and alarms where the loss of fine motor skills makes things like putting a key into a lock tricky? The technology to do all this currently exists, but the cost is prohibitive for many of us.

Look at what Sony have done at CES: CES 2014: Sony's vision for a future living room - BBC News

While it’s not in the robotics area that you’re looking at rational_robots, the lines between medical assistive and everyday tech are now so blurred that the potential for tech to help us all is fantastic and I think you’re in a very interesting and exciting field.

The exoskeleton that prisoner refers to is here (it’s called HAL and built by Cyberdyne, not evil at all): The world's first Wearable Cyborg "HAL" - CYBERDYNE

What I want exists and it’s quite simple really. I want my wheelchair to lift me up so that I can reach into kitchen cupboards and higher than the second shelf in Sainsburys.

It is an optional extra on the wheelchair that I’ve got but wheelchair services will not prescribe it because the need for it is social not medical. I’m not ungrateful for my NHS chair (far from it) but that feature would be so useful.


Hi, about the IKettle…I had a quick look at it, but couldnt see a feature I could do with…can it be linked to the water supply? I have troubled lifting it to the tap, across the sink from my wheelie and back again to the base.

I dont want it to fill right up, as it would be too heavy to pour…I just want enough for 2 cups at a time. I use a pourer cage, which helps me fill the cups.


How about something that assists you getting heavy bags of shopping from the car boot and can help getting the bags into the house.

Useing sticks or elbow crutches makes this a very difficult opperation.


Unfortunately not, but it’s a great idea. For those who can afford it there are touchscreen and face recognition systems that can be linked to water supplies e.g. http://www.miscea.com - and while some of them are aimed at corporate environments there’s absolutely no reason why they couldn’t be adapted for domestic use. Attaching the pipe to a kettle system would be an excellent example.

The technology exists, just need someone willing to take it and adapt it for more practical, day-to-day means and make it more affordable/accessible.

Thanx Garry.


Thanks for all the ideas guys, and sincere apologies for the delay replying! - There have been some great ideas that has resulted in me spending a huge amount of time reading lots of academic research papers finding out what already exists or is being worked on! I have also discussed some of this thread with my supervisors, who so far seem fairly receptive and interested to see what other ideas people with first hand experience can come up with!

At the moment the idea that peaks my interest most, is that which is mentioned most on here, (by prisoner, Dinks and DoctorGeoff)… something that can prevent or perhaps just delay the need for a wheelchair is very desired by myself and probably also by most people with ms (as well as so many other conditions).
Exoskeletons have become very popular research topics, however most (if not all) still come with a huge price tag, are very large and power hungry.
I think I have potentially devised a way to address these issues. I don’t want to divulge anything just yet, as I am still not sure if it is feasible, but I will report back if I become more confident!

I am also having a regular checkup with my neurologist in the next couple of weeks, I’m hoping they might also have some insight!

I’m still very keen to gather as many ideas from the community as possible!

Thanks again!