Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive disorder that affects nerve cells deep in the brain - cells responsible for planning and controlling body movement. Two symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremors and rigidity; both can cause weak legs for the patient as the disease progresses. The main reason for leg weakness is the lack of neurotransmitter action. This means that the patient´s leg muscles cannot co-ordinate properly. As part of rehabilitation, Parkinson’s patients are suggested to walk as much as they are able to. More activity gives better health. But most patients walk with assistant tools, such as a crutch, a walker or a scooter. Walking with aids does not have the same rehabilitating effect as walking without.
Inspiration and Method
The Leg Up idea inspiration comes from one of my user interviewees who used a piece of rubber band to gain control over the weak leg, and took the assistance of the elastic power to walk more easily. Elastic energy is potential mechanical energy stored in the configuration of a material system as work is performed to disort its volume or shape. Rubber band is a kind of material that has the ability to be stretched and pulled! So my design goals was to apply this easy power on a Parkinson's patient's body! With this rubber help, patients with leg weakness symptoms could lift their feet better and make bigger steps while walking. I started by testing different mock-ups, finding out where and how to apply this wearable product on the patient's body in the most ideal way! After talking with doctors, testing on myself and testing with my users, I made "leg up" a working prototype. After ensuring its effectiveness, I also had many talks with different users, both men and women for the final visualization design.
I took the idea, developed, tested and designed it into a wearable product with the advantage of simplicity and low manufacturing cost. The elastic power is not only helpful for Parkinson’s patients, but also a lot of other people with leg weakness symptoms. And it’s affordable for everyone! As i had mentioned in my research, the most effective way of treating Parkinson's disease is exercise. As Parkinson's patients are usually elderly people, they can choose very few ways to exercise; walking is most appropriate for recovery. Leg Up could help these patients who need to lift their leg. And they are able to wear this product inside their pants in a comfortable way, it protects their pride by hiding the assistance.