Inspired by need to help the disabled

  • Metro News
  • Saturday, 21 Oct 2017

Izdihar and her mother Rafidah demonstrating how Izdihar’s walker can be attached to her wheelchair using a hook designed by their team.

A PARENT’S love knows no bounds and this was the driving force behind an invention made for a child with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

Branden Lim, seven, has a condition which causes his muscle strength to progressively weaken which has already affected his hands.

His parents created a prototype of a device which enables him to move his wrist to draw, write and paint.

Lim’s team was awarded a US$5,000 (RM21,125) grant at #ThisAbility Makeathon 2017 organised by Unicef in collaboration with Petrosains.

Branden demonstrating his gripping aid device which helps when holding a pen, paint brush or spoon.

Branden demonstrating his gripping aid device which helps when holding a pen, paint brush or spoon.

#ThisAbility Makeathon 2017 was part of the Childhood Disability in Malaysia: A Study of Knowledge, Attitude and Practices event held at Petrosains.

The grant is to manufacture the product for distribution in the community.

Eight teams took part in the contest and six finalists displayed their devices created to help those with disabilities.

Unicef representative in Malaysia, Marianne Clark-Hattingh, said the designs were inspired by the need to help children with disabilities and showcase the resourceful and ingenious adaptations made to improve their lives.

“Many positive steps can be taken to change hearts and minds towards children with disabilities.

“It starts with us seeing them, valuing them and including them.

Ainaa (seated left) invented a wheelchair organiser which converts into a small table that can be used for writing.

Ainaa (seated left) invented a wheelchair organiser which converts into a small table that can be used for writing.

“We can all contribute in building a more inclusive society,” she said.

Petrosains chief executive officer Tengku Nasariah Tengku Syed Ibrahim noted it was the first private company in Malaysia which had committed to become Champions of Inclusion with Unicef.

“Petrosains wants to ensure education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is accessible and inclusive for all children,” she said.

Branden’s mother Yap Sook Yee, 42, said she wanted her son to continue drawing and writing for as long as he could.

“Early this year, Branden lost more of his ability to grip and my husband and I were thinking of ways to help him.

Nikhil's team developed a GoPro/iPad remote control device which can be fixed to the wheelchair.

“We wanted him to draw, paint and write for as long as possible. With this device, he can move more of his hands,” she said.

When the image of the prototype was shared on Branden’s Facebook fan page at “Branden-Growing Up With Spinal Muscular Atrophy In Malaysia” many parents, both locally and internationally, wanted to purchase it, said Yap.

Innovators were not just parents of children with disability but friends of the disabled.

Ethan Chua, nine, created an educational activity pack which consists of a hand-gripping device for his friend with cerebral palsy

Opening a colouring box, or trying to grip a colour pencil is extremely challenging for children with muscle-related disabilities.

“My friend could not grip his pencil to write or draw and I wanted to help him.

“With help from my father and teacher, we produced a hook-like device as well as a stationary tool box which could be used by those with my friend’s condition,” he said.

Unfortunately, Ethan’s friend passed away while the device was being produced but he wants the innovation to benefit others.

Ainaa Farhanah Amali, 22, wanted a wheelchair with more pockets and a portable table which would enable her to sketch.

Ethan with a prototype of an activity pack with a pencil gripper that allows those with limited fine motor skills to hold a writing tool.

“I majored in graphic design in college and used to carry a lot of bags.

“I would hang the bags on my wheelchair and it did not look nice.

“With help from several experts, we created a portable table which also acts as a bag to be attached to a wheelchair,” said Ainaa who has spinal muscular atrophy.

Some wheelchair users are able to walk short distances with the help of a walker.

However, they need a helper to carry their heavy walkers when they are using their wheelchair.

Izdihar Janna Adzzly, 12, always required her mother’s help to carry her walker.

Rafidah Ahmad, however, said it was heavy to carry her daughter’s walker.

To address the problem, her group created a tool to hook the walker to the wheelchair.

Children with disabilities are just as tech-savvy as their peers but they need help to better utilise the devices.

Nikhil Looi’s team created a GoPro/iPad remote control device which could be attached to a wheelchair.

The device allows those with limited strength to control the GoPro camera with a 360° turning circumference using an iPad and joystick.

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