Assistive Foot Care Device

Designers:  Avery Capone, Shaun Noonan, Connie Siang
Client Coordinator:  Annette Lauber, NC Assistive Technology Project
Supervising Professors: Kevin Caves and Richard Goldberg

A foot care device was designed and constructed for a middle-aged woman with Cerebral Palsy, who had difficulty bending over and reaching to cut her toenails. She had previously used a conventional toenail clipper, which had often taken her up to twenty minutes per foot.  The constructed device allows her to clip her toenails while sitting comfortably in her wheelchair, significantly reducing the time and energy that it takes her to perform the task.

How this project helped
The Assistive Foot Care Device will improve the client’s ability to trim toenails quickly and effectively.  As opposed to spending more than twenty minutes per foot, she will now be able to clip her toenails faster and easier.  According to the client, “You have no idea what an improvement this is over the past.”

The Assistive Foot Care Device (Figure 1) is modeled after commercial reaching devices, which provide a grasping mechanism at the end of a rod, controlled by a trigger grip.  The device consists of five main components: the trigger/handle, chassis, force transmission system, vision enhancement mechanism, and trimmer.

A handle with a plastic handgrip was removed from a commercial hand-held reacher (Featherlight). The plastic trigger lever was replaced with a custom aluminum lever for stability and strength.   The handle and trigger were dipped in Plasti-Dip to create a softer finish.  The chassis was constructed from aluminum u-bar, chosen for its durability and light weight.  The u-bar allowed a protective housing for the internal components of the device while allowing easy accessibility.

The chassis provides a 134-degree angle, selected as optimal for the client while seated in her wheelchair, which was created by making angled cuts in the u-bar and fixing them with aluminum binding posts.  The upper part of the chassis was dipped in Plasti-Dip, while the lower half of the chassis was coated in heat-shrink wrap to enclose the force transmission system. The force transmission system used high-strength kite string, which was attached to a hole in the trigger at one end, run down the chassis through a retaining eyebolt, and to a hole in the clipper lever at the other end.

To improve precision, a small magnifying sheet was mounted to the chassis with alligator clips attached together by pliant wire, so that it is adjustable. The alligator clips allow the magnifying sheet to be removed if the client so chooses. The trimmer uses high-quality large commercial clippers (Brookstone), with a hole drilled for the string. A steel L-bracket mounts the trimmer to the chassis.

In evaluations, the client estimated that this device will reduce the amount of time that it previously took her to perform foot care maintenance by 80% and that the device will reduce the amount of exertion required to trim her toenails by 90%.

Figure 2 shows the client with the Assistive Foot Care Device. Cost of parts was about $100.

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