Winners announced as survey finds that almost 60% of people living with arthritis say that their lives would be improved with a wider range of products
26th April 2010: The winners of the first annual Arthritis Ireland Easy to Use Design Awards, in partnership with Pfizer Healthcare Ireland and NCAD, were announced at a ceremony in Dublin today. Open to third year Industrial Design students at NCAD, the Awards recognise and encourage innovation in universal design to make everyday products and devices more attractive and usable for everyone, including people living with disabilities.
The Awards were established following research into the difficulties faced by people living with rheumatoid arthritis, on a day to day basis, at home and in the workplace. Over three quarters (77%) of those surveyed reported that they found cleaning and household chores somewhat or very difficult, with similar assessments given to daily tasks such as getting dressed, cooking and socialising by almost half of all respondents.
In what was a unanimous decision by the judging panel - which included entrepreneur Sean Gallagher from RTE's Dragons' Den - the overall winners were Alan Harrison from Mayo, and Ben Millet from Roscommon, for their innovative design, The Kug, a clever combination of a kettle and a mug.
The students were inspired to design The Kug after they spoke with people living with rheumatoid arthritis who recounted their frustration and difficulties with everyday household and lifestyle appliances. The Kug offers on the go tea or coffee making while eliminating the need for a kettle, which because of its design and weight is impractical for use for people living with arthritis. The winning students have already had initial discussions with Sean and fellow Dragon, Bobby Kerr, Insomnia, with a view to assist them to take it to market.
Commenting on the standard of entries, Dragons' Den star Sean Gallagher, said "I was absolutely blown away by the designs and the creativity, energy and passion that clearly went into all of them. More and more we are seeing companies designing for the broadest possible audience. To get students thinking this way and designing with this audience in mind is real forward thinking because this is where the market is going."
Along with the overall prize winners, the judges awarded commendations to three student teams - Patrick Murphy and Paget McCormack for their INNI easy to open door handle, designed to eliminate wrist rotation; John Horrigan and Olga Podoba for the Easicote nail polish applicator which offers enhanced grip and control; and Michelle Murphy, Carina Labonte and Patricia Santa Maria for Duo-tap, an easy grip and pour alternative to existing drinks cartons.
To coincide with the announcement of the winners of the Awards, Arthritis Ireland also officially launched their Easy to Use Commendation Programme whereby companies are invited to submit their product for assessment by a panel of users. Any product or packaging that meets the criteria and is deemed 'Easy to Use' by the panel will receive the Easy to Use commendation and trademark. The programme is the first of its kind in Europe that acknowledges and rewards businesses that provide products which are easy to use. The initiative recognises and encourages innovative design while providing consumers with a distinctive and easily recognisable trademark they know they can trust."
The research also found that, when questioned about 'arthritis friendly' products currently available, over half of the respondents said that the adapted products they currently use tend to highlight their condition. Almost 60% of those questioned said that the one thing that would have the most positive impact on their lives was a wider range of adapted products for every day activities. Almost 80% of respondents said that their condition affects some or all aspects of their lives.
John Church, CEO of Arthritis Ireland explained, "Many consumers are increasingly frustrated by products or packaging that is difficult to use. In fact, it is estimated that almost 20% of people over 55 have stopped buying certain food products because they have experienced significant difficulties in opening them. As a person ages, upper body mobility, finger strength, dexterity and reach become more limited. Simple tasks such as opening a carton of milk, gardening, making a cup of tea or using a mobile phone can become increasingly challenging and frustrating. People with mobility difficulties are constantly searching for new products which have been designed with them in mind, which are easy to open and use, but with no standard guidelines or trademark available this search can prove extremely frustrating."
Speaking at the Awards, Geraldine O'Connor, Corporate Affairs Manager, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, said, "We are delighted to partner with Arthritis Ireland on the Easy to Use Design Awards. At Pfizer, our stated goal is 'working together for a healthier world' and this initiative certainly embodies this philosophy. The quality of the work produced by the students was of such a high quality that I have no doubt we will be seeing more groundbreaking work from them in the future."
Professor Declan McGonagle, Director, NCAD, said "The 'Easy to Use' project with Arthritis Ireland and Pfizer has been an excellent learning experience for the students. The project demonstrates how designers can take a leading role in the creation of smart user and lifestyle oriented products responding to the needs of arthritis sufferers. Working with the problems of 'real people' in the 'real world' with 'real constraints' is the best possible training for young designers as they emerge to make their way as leaders in the 'smart economy."
Further information on the Arthritis Ireland's new Easy to Use Commendation Programme can be found on www.arthritisireland.ie
Published: 28th April 2010.