Back in 2012 I was involved in a project called Fixperts – they bring together designers and people with challenges who need some design input. They document it all by filming it and share that with the wider community. I found getting involved with this really was a breath of fresh air. My challenge, because I have poor dexterity and numbness in my fingers, was to find a way to help me put in my earring studs. Some people would say, “well just don’t wear earrings”, but it felt like I’d had that choice taken away from me. I’ve had presents given to me over the years, so I don’t want to leave the earrings I’ve been given in a little box and just forget about them.
Fizperts matched me with a designer called Florie and I felt bad when I gave her my tricky challenge. Putting in an earring stud is really quite fiddly and there are lots of parts to the process. But Florie went away and came back with an amazing prototype. There were two prongs that fitted to the butterfly, and another bit that fitted to the front. It was a bit like a stapler! But the first prototype didn’t quite put the earrings together – it was too flimsy.
So she went away and did more research and eventually came up with the idea of using the tweezers that jewellers use for bending metal. These were much better at holding the earring in place and she made the rest of the gadget more rigid. When she came back I was able to put my earrings in for the first time in ages – about nine years? That was pretty amazing! I was really happy, it was like my independence and choice were given back to me. I could wear earrings if I wanted to, or not – it was up to me. It wasn’t because I couldn’t do it. It was my choice.
One product I particularly like is Sugru, which is a mouldable glue. It looks like plasticine and you can use it to fix or adapt things. It cures at room temperature. You can use it for all sorts of things: on cutlery to make the handles easier to grip, on remote controls to build up buttons to make them easier to press or on your phone to make it easier to hold. The nice thing about Sugru is that they’ve built a community of people who share what they’ve been fixing and modifying, so you can get inspiration from what other people are doing. Sugru has some great properties - you can put it in the dishwasher for example. And once you’ve stuck it onto something, it’s not permanent. If you decide you want to change anything, you can carefully cut the Sugru off and start again.
Remap is a national charity that works through local groups of skilled volunteers – often people who are retired engineers or designers. They help people achieve independence and a better quality of life by designing and making equipment for their individual needs. This tailor-made equipment helps people to carry out essential daily tasks without having to ask for help, or helps them take part in leisure occupations or sports that would otherwise be impossible.