U of R Ingenuity Enhances Independence

Bio-Medical Students & Dorthea Fee

Dorthea Fee and Ricky Dean (not pictured) recently were on the receiving end of some engineering brilliance, compliments of five University of Rochester bio-medical students who created wheelchair enhancements to improve the mobility, accessibility and independence of the people they desired to help.

It was all part of a year-end college project in which the students were required to create unique working prototypes of products to support Dorthea and Ricky in their daily routines.

The students spent the first semester doing the research. Once their initial assessments and recommendations were accepted by faculty, they used the second semester to construct and complete their recommended solutions.

“I love it,” said Dorthea regarding the new portable pull-out drawer affixed to the arm of her wheelchair. “I don’t have to ask anyone for help. It’s all right here. I am so happy!” The students also fabricated a new swinging arm to assist Dorthea in retrieving her handbag on the back of her wheelchair.

Ricky needed help reaching and manually lifting the left foot rest on his wheelchair. He also wanted a tabletop device to place on the arms of his chair.

Ricky was given a table-top device, specially made to fit his wheelchair, and a hand-held mechanism to release his left footrest.

“The device helps Ricky to be more independent so that he can transfer easier to different surfaces,” said Jennifer Lowell, Coordinator of Occupational Therapy Services at Lifetime Assistance.

The assistive devices fashioned by the students are one-of-a-kind innovations, Jennifer said.  Upon project completion, the U of R students generously shared their blueprints and manufacturing methods with Lifetime so their creations may also benefit future users.