Innovation for Independence

Finalist Updates #1: Evolvable Walking Aid - Step 1: Graduate

Inclusive Technology Prize finalist Evolvable Walker
Publish date:
10/08/2015 - 1:40pm
Last updated:
02/09/2015 - 12:08pm

Step 1, graduate. Step 2, create an affordable evolvable walking aid that changes with its user. Reducing cost and improving their experience.


My hat hit the ground and I was on my way. It was graduation day but the oversized gown was soon ditched in favour of the real world where I was embraced by my one week old design company and my biggest project yet.  


Creating a walking aid that changes with you

The project aims to offer long term walking aid users with the ideal type of support throughout changes in their condition by providing a walking aid kit which can be assembled like a LEGO® set to form a walking stick, crutches or a walking frame. By eliminating the need to buy more than one type of walking aid the design aims to reduce costs and improve the mobility rehabilitation experience.

Prior to this I designed an extremely low cost walking aid kit for developing regions of the world (68 pence to be precise) which can be assembled to form a walking stick, crutches or a walking frame from a wooden pallet. After exhibiting the design I received a surge of positive feedback from walking aid users and mobility rehabilitation professionals and I realised that the project could have a far greater scale of impact if I adapted the original design to make a commercially viable version suitable for developed regions of the world.  The opportunity to pursue this concept came when it was selected as a finalist by the Inclusive Technology Prize.


Focusing on refining the product design

The past month has been focused on putting together the project foundations and refining the design specification. As well as analysing health and safety standards and identifying design constraints, there have been some insightful talks with walking aid users, occupational therapists and physiotherapists about their experiences with various walking aids. One of the mobility rehabilitation centres I visited had 10 different types of crutches - imagine the size of the store room needed to keep all of those alongside all the sticks and walking frames too! The most progressive activity of the project so far has been meeting with designers and engineers to discuss potential manufacturing methods for the kit. Keeping the manufacturing costs low is integral to the final product so these discussions will have significant influence on the design.


We’ve secured a space in a brand new makerspace for entrepreneurs

In September the project will move to the Central Research Laboratory (CRL) which is the UK’s first purpose built facility dedicated to entrepreneurial makers.  As well as providing workshop space and machinery to assist with prototyping and testing the design, the CRL will also provide mentoring for the business side of the project so there will be lots to learn!


Cara O’Sullivan is an Industrial Designer and Ethnographic Researcher. After working at the Medical Engineering Resource Unit (MERU) she turned her focus to designing for mobility rehabilitation. Cara was recently awarded a design prize for cultural development for her continued efforts to engage younger generations with STEM subjects.