ALL Joanne Smith wanted was the chance to brush her own teeth but first she needed a little help from others.
Ms Smith, aged 47, was one of eight challengers selected to present their case to a design team at the TOM Melbourne Makeathon. The team had a 48-hour sprint, working with Ms Smith to create a solution.
TOM stands for Tikkun Olam Makers, a Hebrew phrase for acts of kindness and now a global not-for-profit movement of innovators who create affordable solutions to the overlooked challenges of people living with disabilities.
For Ms Smith the result is the U-brush. Ms Smith, who lives in Ballarat, has a neurological degenerative muscular disease which limits mobility in her arms and legs. She has trouble using her hands due to flexed wrists and poor skin quality but was determined to find a way to independently maintain good oral hygiene.
A lot of people take (brushing your teeth) for granted. For me, it's about not depending on others.Joanne Smith
"A lot of people take (brushing your teeth) for granted. For me, it's about not depending on others," Ms Smith said. "(The U-brush) I can hold and twist and turn it anyway I want."
The design team used 3D printing for a bespoke toothbrush handle that Ms Smith could easily pick up and hold. The team also made a toothpaste dispenser with a magnet to attach to her bathroom wall so Ms Smith could complete the whole process on her own.
More than 100 engineers, designers, technology developers and health professionals joined forces and volunteered for the two-day event.
These "makers" worked with eight "need-knowers", including Joanne. Other solutions they created include: a pick up device for quadruple amputee to pick up items from the ground; motorised crutches for a man with Becker Muscular Dystrophy to move from a sitting to a standing position; and afoot-operated motorised spoon for a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy to feed himself.
Ms Smith said it was exciting to be part of a campaign to create a device that might help others too.
She hopes to be part of another TOM makeathon soon and already has a challenge ready to go: Ms Smith would love a device to make it easier for her to independently use deodorant.
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