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Cutting-edge 3D technology gives disabled people more independence

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Cutting-edge technology, supported by people’s generosity, has helped create customised devices to give disabled people more independence.

A collaboration between Swansea Bay health board and Swansea University has led to the development of personalised items such as holders for deodorant, hair curlers and nail vanish.

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And money raised through the health board’s charity has helped fund some of the materials used to develop the aids.

Jonathan Howard, clinical scientist at the Rehabilitation Engineering Unit based at Morriston Hospital, used state-of-the-art 3D printing to produce designs for the devices.

Georgia Sinclair, who has hemiplegia – paralysis of the left-hand side of her body – has benefitted from the project.

She said: “I have struggled with trying to be independent again, and Jonathan has been designing products for me to become more independent, such as to help me do my hair.

“For me, the struggle with being a disabled person is that you lack independence on things that you know are so simple, and this project has given that back to me. I have become a lot more independent and I don’t have to ask people to do things for me. It has benefited me a lot.”

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Fellow participant, Daniel Jones, has the use of one hand due to cerebral palsy.

He said: “This project has had a massive impact on me.

“One of the things that has been designed for me is a deodorant holder. Because I can’t use my right hand, I was unable to get the deodorant under my left armpit but the holder has allowed me to do that.

“It has given me so much more control, which is a massive help to me.”

Swansea Bay Health Charity, the official charity of Swansea Bay University Health board, has funded materials to support the production of devices.

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Jonathan said: “I’m doing a PhD through Swansea University and the funding we have received through the charity has allowed us to look at our research involving the end user in the design of their own assistive technology.

“The devices that we are designing have been using cutting edge technology such as 3D printing and computer-aided design, which allows us to customise the devices to the user’s needs.”

As a result of the successes and positive feedback from the participants, the project has been nominated for The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine award for innovation in healthcare science in the UK Advancing Healthcare Awards 2022, which takes place on April 8.

Deborah Longman, head of fundraising at Swansea Bay Health Charity, said: “Innovative projects like this are exactly the kind of thing that makes me proud of the fundraising we do here at Swansea Bay.

“Being able to support these participants and make tangible improvements to their lives would not be possible without the kind and generous donations from our supporters.

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“Jonathan is an outstanding scientist who is passionate about his work, and by working together it makes a real difference. We wish Jonathan every success at the award ceremony.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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