In the assistive technology sector, sometimes the most profound impacts come from addressing the simplest of tasks. One such task, often taken for granted, is the act of cutting one’s fingernails. At Freedom Solutions, we were recently tasked to create a customised solution – a fingernail cutting device that is operated by a foot lever.
For many, cutting fingernails is a weekly routine. However, for one of our clients living with a brachial plexus injury, this task becomes a significant challenge. The brachial plexus is a complex network of nerves connecting the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hand. An injury to this network can severely limit upper limb function, making bilateral tasks like nail cutting nearly impossible. One of our clients, living with this injury, approached us with a goal: to independently cut their own fingernails using the accessible range of movement in their feet.
The initial design phase involved understanding the client’s specific needs and limitations. Collaborating closely with the client’s Occupational Therapist, we brainstormed various designs that would allow the client to use their feet to operate nail clippers. The challenge was to create a mechanism that was both functional and comfortable for the client.
Volunteer Jim Barrett stepped in with an innovative idea. He envisioned a system where the nail clippers would be mounted on a hand rest, connected to a foot-operated mechanism. The design would allow the client to position their hand and finger comfortably while using their foot to operate the clippers.
The Solution: Production
With a design in mind, the production phase began. The nail clippers were mounted on a hand rest, adjusted to a comfortable height for sitting. These clippers were then connected to a pipe, which in turn was attached to a footplate. This footplate was designed with a pedal on the left side. The mechanism was such that pressing the foot pedal would lower the pipe, causing the nail clippers to close.
The production phase involved multiple iterations, ensuring that the mechanism was smooth, and the force required to operate the pedal was minimal. This was crucial to ensure that the client could use the device without any strain.
This innovation is a shining example of how customised assistive technology can fill gaps that many commercial products cannot address: the unique needs of every individual.
We’re eagerly awaiting feedback from our client, as the solution is set to be delivered this week. Stay tuned for more updates!
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