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ME students tailor-made assistive tool for elderly

In recent years, there have been growing calls to provide more accessible facilities for the people with disabilities. To serve is to care, even if it’s a seemingly tiny matter, that’s the lesson that Yau Sung Kin, Lo Kit Lun and Ng Chun Chiu learned during his two years’ Service-Learning (SL) experience.

Last year, the three final year BEng in Mechanical Engineering students took the SL subject offered by the Department of Mechanical Engineering “ME3S01 Engineering Design for the Community”. During the course, they learned the overall process of mechanical design with students from other departments. Their goal was to come up with a tailor-made assistive tool for an elder. They teamed up to design a shower chair for 86-year-old Mr. Yau, and felt his efforts throughout the semester were rewarded when he was told, “I want to take a bath immediately!”

Mr Yau lost three fingers on his right hand in an industrial accident when he was young. Every time he takes a shower, he requires assistant from his wife, which includes handing him a chair to sit on, passing him the bathing equipment and holding the shower head. The wooden chair he had been using was not slip-resistant, waterproof or foldable, and it didn’t have a back or arms, which made it very inconvenient. Although he is old, Mr Yau wants to maintain his independence in such daily activities.

Due to their limited time and resources, the team of three decided to modify a store-bought shower chair for Mr Yau after consulting with their tutors. They found that most of the shower chairs available in the market were very bulky, despite the generally cramped living environments in Hong Kong. They strongly believed product designers should design according to users’ needs.

To help Mr Yau, they applied what have learnt at class and modified a foldable chair based on Mr Yau’s needs, including adding a slip-resistant device to the backrest, adding a height mark to the chair legs and attaching a basket to the left armrest to hold the bathing equipment. The new chair is very stable and allows Mr Yau to take a shower without anyone else’s help.

“Talking about care for the elderly or people in wheelchairs, we usually only focus on the construction of visible accessible facilities, but neglect the tiny matters in their daily lives. When we become engineer in the future, we hope our designs can address the needs of these people.” said by Thomas Yau, Lo Kit Lun and Ng Chun Chui.

(From left) Ng Chun Chiu, Lo Kit Lun, Mr Yau, Mrs Yau and Yau Sung Kin