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Assistive and Accessible Solutions

Looking at the chair at your dining room table, you probably wouldn’t call it ‘technology’ but at one point, it was. Everything from the phone in your pocket to the glasses on your face is a technological advancement. Now, it may be difficult to believe that glasses can be classified as technology perhaps because most of us think that technology requires electricity- at least let them be Smart Glasses to be considered technology.

But if you look up the word ‘technology’ in any dictionary, you’ll find that batteries aren’t included. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines technology as “the practical application of knowledge, especially in a particular area” and that’s it. Basically, where there is a problem there must also be a solution. 

Can’t see? Glasses!

Need to update your best friend across the country? Phone! 

And like all inventions, there are many iterations according to available resources, culture, and geography. Obviously, the mobile phone as we know it today was not always as it is otherwise Grandma wouldn’t need so many demonstrations on how to video chat correctly.

Prosthetics are another example of technology that’s evolved over the years. In movies, we see pirates with wooden limbs and hooks for hands and half-robot humans with laser eyes. While we may be past using wood to replace limbs and not quite capable of enabling superstrength in prosthetic limbs, today’s prosthetics are still impressive and, more importantly, necessary. 

Liquid Limbs is a company that makes adaptive limbs “to redefine mobility and to help people approach their lives from a position of confidence, independence, and overall wellness.” 

Liquid Limbs and NextFab

James ​​Calcagni, the founder of Liquid Limbs, started his company to help people with lower limb amputations lead more mobile lives. He and co-founder, Amoyah Gilliam, created the first prototype at NextFab and call it The Navigator to help those with limb loss navigate

Limb loss affects about one in 190 Americans and may double by 2050 if left unchecked. Whether at birth or by amputation, those missing a limb overall have the need is the same: to be able to live independently. To shower, prepare meals, and walk around the house without assistance. 

The Navigator was specifically designed for those who have lost a limb below the knee. It was made to be waterproof, lightweight, and comfortable enough for every day. It’s not meant as a replacement for other adaptive limbs or prosthetics but as an enhancement. 

You can watch the videos below to see how it’s used and how it’s helped.

It’s not on the market yet, but in time, they’re on their way, having recently won the Delaware Valley University Spark Bowl, which awarded them $12,000 to be used towards helping them put The Navigator on the market.

NextFab is honored to have been part of their journey and we’re excited to see The Navigator in households across the country, granting independence and agency to those with limb loss.

3D Printing, Assistive Solutions, and Resources

The Navigator isn’t the only adaptive limb (prosthetic) of its kind, either. Historically, people have used prosthetics for centuries, the oldest dating as back as 950 B.C., a prosthetic toe, which was carved from wood. The world’s oldest known tools date back to 3.3 million years ago and, like prosthetics, helped make tasks easier for people, such as starting a fire, building a shelter, and hunting.

While prosthetics are helpful to those with limb loss, tools can be helpful to those with other disabilities that may make it difficult to do everyday tasks, but like The Navigator, are not available for purchase. In recent years, 3D printing has become more commonplace and people have been able to print anything from coffee mugs to car parts. 

3D printers have also been used to print prosthetics and assistive tools, such as a Swivel Wheelchair Cup Holder, which you can download from the Canadian website, Makers Making Change

Websites like Makers Making Change and occupational therapists, like Lindsay of EquipMeOT, create and share assistive technology that also helps those with occupational needs, some of which can be purchased at local retailers. 

Products like the Snuggie, although marketed to an able-bodied audience, are suitable for people in wheelchairs. The EZ Cracker to crack eggs and the Touch N’ Brush to squeeze toothpaste on a toothbrush for those with loss of fine motor skills in their hands. The Sock Slider is for those who have difficulty bending or cannot bend over. These products are sometimes mocked for “enabling” laziness, but that doesn’t take into account that not all disabilities are visible nor do they need to be justified to those without them. 

At NextFab, accessibility is one of our biggest priorities. In our purpose statement, “we provide access to machinery, classes, membership, community, and space for anything you want to fabricate.” These ideas, these inventions, and progresses in technology are not only to exceed the limits of our imaginations but to improve the world we have now for everyone- disabled or otherwise- living in it. 

If you live in the Philadelphia area and want to take classes in woodworking, design, and more, please check out our class list here. You may get the next great idea like James’ Liquid Limbs, and we may help you fabricate your first prototype! 

James’ Liquid Limbs