April 12, 2016

Life hacks for Parkinson's: My Ted talk

Strategist, Mileha Soneji - My goal as a designer is to make simple but effective design solutions. Creating a product or service doesn’t have to be complex in order to be a success. Instead, one can develop a product or service with simple methods and with a logical approach; and still create the difference. I used this stance to create simple ‘life hacks’ to help those with Parkinson’s disease. This attitude towards a led me to give a talk for Ted on tackling some of the problems faced by those with Parkinson’s. As result of that Ted talk, I will also get the pleasure to do an additional talk in India on the 9th May in my hometown Pune and the 10th in Mumbai.

The first life hack I thought of was a cup designed especially for those with Parkinson's. One of the symptoms of Parkinson's is a slight tremor in the hands. I noticed that many were somewhat embarrassed to drink in public, as they would often spill their drinks. This triggered me to look at what could be done and what the other alternatives were in terms of design, without emphasising their disability. Therefore, I designed a cup that looked like a 'normal' cup, but was designed to prevent and reduce spillage. The NoSpill cup is not only a cup, but also a companion. It can boost one's confidence and they no longer have to be ashamed to drink in public.

"I envision a world where simple solutions are combined in order to tackle complexity"

My love affair with creating simple solutions was not over. During my Bachelors, I spent time in Pune with my uncle. Whilst spending time with him, I was able to observe the daily life of someone with Parkinson's disease. One of the things I learnt was the 'freezing of gait,' a termed used to describe the absence or reduction of forward progression of the feet despite the intention to walk. Upon observation, I noticed that he was able to walk up the stairs without his walker. No hassle or trouble. He said walking up the stairs was no problem as long as he doesn't stop. If he stops, he won't be able to progress. This triggered a light bulb moment! The next day, I laid a flat print out of stairs on the floor for him. To my amazement, he walked perfectly fine. In doing this experiment, I was able to see how someone's life could be enhanced. What if there were images of stairs in a hotel lobby, or train stations? A simple observation opened up a realm of possibilities that can help create a better, easier and happier life for those who live with Parkinson's.

For me, having empathy and being able to put yourself in another person's shoes is what makes a great design. It is these experiences that inspires me to carry on with creating the difference. I envision a world where simple solutions are combined in order to tackle complexity. This in turn, makes a smart world but with simplicity.

Watch my TED talk and see how I aim to create the difference!

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