London graduate Cara O’Sullivan has made the finals of a new Design Council medical technology competition with a DIY kit that lets people build their own bespoke walking aid from a range of ‘meccano-like’ components

The Brunel University industrial design and technology graduate created the Evolvable Walking Aid Kit after finding that the lack of adaptability in walking aids means that people going through rehabilitation or with a worsening condition are likely to switch between three different devices to get the right support, with significant effects on cost and confidence.

With 18% of the global population having some difficulty with walking, including 6.9 million people in the UK, Cara set out to design an adaptable set of components that could be easily and quickly assembled to meet each user’s exact needs and evolve as their condition changes. She says that living with her grandfather as he progressively lost mobility was one inspiration for the invention.

“He started off using a stick then transitioned to crutches and then a frame as he became less able to walk,” she says. “Buying the different walking aids had a big financial impact, and I could also see that having to get used to a new device each time had a big impact on his confidence as well. For people getting older or going through rehabilitation, that tends to be the way it goes – you are either getting better or getting worse, and that means the type of walking aid you need changes.”

She has now set up a business, Cara Design, and is working with physiotherapists and occupational therapists to trial the kit.

Her invention has been shortlisted for the new MedTechSouthEast programme designed by Design Council and MedCity to fast-track innovative medical technologies that support older people or those with debilitating conditions to live more independent lives. She will present her invention to judges tomorrow at a pitching event at the Royal College of General Practitioners, alongside 13 other companies. Successful entrepreneurs will win an intensive 10 week accelerator course that will see them develop their products with industry experts.