Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why Design Matters...An Interview with Mobilegs Designer, Jeff Weber

We spoke with Mobilegs' designer, Jeff Weber, about the role of design in the products we use. Here's what he had to say...

Why is design important for consumer products?

Jeff Weber, designer of Mobilegs Crutches
Design is the connective tissue between people and the world we inhabit – the quality of that design profoundly affects the quality of the human experience and thus, defines our existence.

When using a product, we should be almost unaware of its existence. Comfort is the absence of awareness. The less aware we are of the device we’re using, the better. And, the more likely we are to select the well-designed product over one that is inferior.

Consumers want a good product, and deserve to be given that choice.

What is most essential to successful product design?

Empathy is the key to good design. It requires a total understanding of the needs of the people you are design for. This user-centric point of view is critical in improving the design of any product.

The designer must understand the user’s pain, frustration, joy, and physical and emotional well-being. There should always be a human benefit associated with product design – it’s about the experience, stimulating a person’s senses in a positive or beneficial way

Armed with that information, a designer can begin to construct a good product. It is a blend of art and science – using them in combination to positively impact how people live or work.

What has inspired your work and career?

The human body is a constant source of inspiration for me. Comfort and health are like love and peace – they go together and we can really never have enough. Throughout my career, I’ve set out to produce things that will improve the human experience.

Jeff Weber, of Studio Weber + Associates is an industrial designer who has developed such products as the Herman Miller Embody® Chair, PUR® Water Filtration Systems, and Mobilegs Crutches.

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Olympic Experience

Guest post by two-time Paralympic archer and Mobilegs user, Lindsey Carmichael. 

I suppose I could be predictable and say that the most exciting thing about the Paralympic Games was standing on the podium to receive my Bronze Medal. It was certainly one of the best moments of my life. But instead, I have to admit that the most exciting moment was the Opening Ceremonies—both for Athens and Beijing.

Lindsey at Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Paralympics.
Photo Credit: Kevin J. Stone
To this day, if I tell the full story of what it was like to be a part of the Opening Ceremonies, I will begin to get choked up and my eyes will become teary. I have seen this happen for other people, too, even the coaches and team staff members who were present.

You see, athletes aren’t spectators like everyone else. We are part of the show. So, on the day of the Ceremonies, the officials keep the athletes in the tunnel system of the stadium for hours until just the right moment for the Parade of Nations to begin. Everyone is in full uniform and grouped together by country. The waiting is almost painful, because everyone is so tense and excited. Finally, you can hear the Ceremonies begin with distant rumbles and music. They begin calling the countries out in order, one by one, and the line moves slowly.

I will never forget the moment when Team USA was poised at the entrance to Oaka Stadium in Athens.

Picture hundreds of athletes in red, white, and blue, holding our breaths in the dim light of the tunnel. Just beyond the opening, there is a swirl of brilliant light and color. Then imagine hearing the booming words of the stadium announcer in English, French, and Greek: “Ladies and gentlemen! The United States of America!” We surged out onto the track and into the bright light. The roar of the crowd was stupefyingly loud. I have never felt anything like it—it wasn’t just deafening, it was an avalanche of cheers. Around the bowl of the stadium, tens of thousands of people rose to their feet and snapped photographs, which produced a wave of glittering flashes. I have seldom felt so proud to be an athlete and an American as I did at that moment. The same exact thing happened in China, in the Bird’s Nest Stadium with an even larger crowd.

I am not exaggerating when I say that both times, the Opening Ceremonies changed my life.

Adding to the experience, I was struck by a true sense of community among all of the athletes. I had never seen so many wheelchairs, crutches, and canes all in one place, and all in different styles and sizes—some of them pretty tricked out with fancy paint jobs, too. Wherever you went, all over the Athlete Village and competition venues, there were people from all countries of the world who might have otherwise felt out of place in “normal” society.

And yet, there were so many of us that the usual barriers began toppling almost immediately. Even the most introverted people became comfortable speaking about their disability, their struggles to adapt, and the hundred little ways they had overcome their obstacles each and every day. We even had a professional comedian, one of our Team USA soccer players, give a stand-up routine to a crowd full of athletes—the kinds of jokes that perhaps only a disabled person might be able to laugh at, but good clean fun for us, anyway. It was surprising to discover that a community like that exists at all.

Throughout my Olympic experiences, I felt tremendous freedom to be exactly who I am, regardless of appearance or ability.

Monday, October 3, 2011

5 Tips for Preparing for Surgery

If you are heading into surgery, you're likely focused on the road ahead of you - post surgery. But, you don't want to wake up on day one and find yourself unprepared for that journey.

We reached out to our Mobilegs Facebook community for these tips to prepare for a positive, post-surgical experience:

  1. Start your physical therapy now. Don't wait until after your surgery to start your exercises. Getting your body in as good as shape as you can before the surgery can help to ensure that you're a healthy surgical patient. This also puts your body in better shape to deal with possible weight gain due to limited post-opp activity and decreased metabolism.

  2. Treat yourself. Whether it's a nice dinner out, a day at the spa, or an outing with friends and family, take the time to to what you most enjoy as it might be some time before you're out and about again. This can also help to put you in a more positive mindset before surgery.

  3. Go shopping for post-surgery necessities. Items you might want to consider are:
    • Recovery items such as a shower seat, cast cover, ergonomic pillows or cushions, and crutches or other mobility items. Sometimes these can be purchased at the doctor's office or hospital, but taking some time to look and purchase ahead of time gives you the luxury of choosing from a wider selection of options to find the best fit for your needs and comfort. 
    • Clothes that are easy to put on, fit over any cast or brace that you might have and most importantly, are comfortable.  
    • Groceries that are easy to prepare. The last thing you want to worry about when you come home from surgery is grocery shopping. Stock up ahead of time with items that are easy to prepare, whether it's you or a family member who will be taking on this responsibility.  
    • Activities for the kids. For parents of young children, post-surgical times can be especially challenging. Consider picking up things like puzzels, books, word games or other activities that you can do with your kids while you're recovering.

  4. Organize your home. Consider your post-surgical mobility and arrange spaces to accomodate. Move furniture to create safe passageways if you're going to be on crutches. If you have a multi-level home, move essential items to the main level and consider setting up a bed for yourself on that level as well, to avoid the struggle (and potential hazard) of going up and down stairs.
  5. Talk to, and listen to, your doctor. Discuss your surgery before hand, and understand the procedure as well as your options for pain management. You might want to inquire about a nerve block and whether or not it would be an option for you to consider. During the entire process, follow your doctor's instructions regarding everything from prescriptions for pain and infections as well as your post-surgery routine and mobility restrictions. 
Do you have additional tips to share? Please do so in the comments below. 

Want to talk to others who have taken this journey? Please join the conversation on Facebook.

These tips are provided as suggestions and are not intended as professional medical advice.