Walkies led to super new aid being designed
Device will help visually impaired
A blind man and his neighbour have invented a walking aid which they hope will improve the lives of the visually impaired.
Tom Forsyth, 65, and East Kilbridian Laura Maclean, 37, created the Ramble Tag after having a lightbulb moment while walking their dogs.
The device – a harness which straps on to the arm – is designed specifically for visually impaired people and looks to improve the experience of guided walking and sports.
It works by providing a handle for a person to hold onto, giving greater security and freedom for both parties.
Laura helps Tom to walk his dog and said the idea for the Ramble Tag came from the desire to improve their regular strolls together.
“We were walking up a lane and our two dogs were pulling opposite directions,” she said. “Tom used to hold onto the outside of my jacket or we’d link arms loosely and we just got pulled apart a few times.
“We were joking around and I said, ‘Oh, you need something to hold on to’ and Tom said, ‘Yeah, like a wee handle or something’ and then we were like, ‘Hold on a wee minute, that’s so simple and so easy.’
“It was just an organic idea that came from a back and forth joke – we have a good wee banter relationship.”
Laura, an artist who now lives in Glasgow, got to work on the idea around six months ago, fashioning the first prototype from an old bag and a dog lead.
“That night I cut out an old bag and made a rough thing to test the idea out,” she added. “Although it wasn’t particularly comfortable or how we would have imagined, we just wanted to know if the handle was an easier way to get about.
“I went to the pet shop and bought a dog lead and chopped it up and sewed it onto the body to create a nice quality handle.”
Tom, who worked in graphic design before losing his sight to diabetes complications, developed the idea further until they had both settled on a final product.
With the help of a manufacturer, they created a simple harness with handle and two Velcro straps, which is water resistant and breathable.
Tom says the Ramble Tag has given him more confidence and helped him to overcome the awkwardness that can sometimes occur when he is being helped by someone he isn’t familiar with.
He claimed: “For me it has made such a big difference. There can be a lot of awkwardness involved when you’re walking with someone.
“That starts right away if you don’t know them that well, it’s always a bit of an issue if you don’t know whether they want to link arms or hold your hand.
“But the Ramble Tag certainly overcomes all that because it’s just a matter of taking the handle.
“It’s also really beneficial when you’re just walking because it gives you a feeling of freedom and more independence because you’re not shuffling and struggling to walk.”
The creative duo have been entered into the Blackwood Design Awards for their invention – a competition championing the creation of products that help people to live independently.
Laura added: “We want to inspire people that if you have an idea and you’re blind, or have any sort of disability, to keep on pushing.
“Tom’s sight loss is a big deal to him, especially after being a visual artist. As time has gone he’s turning that around to be something positive, where essentially he’s helping more visually impaired people be a bit more empowered.”
It was an organic idea that came from a back and forth joke...
Walking aid Laura Maclean and Tom Forsyth with dogs Soda and Mister Finn Innovative pair Laura and Tom test out the Ramble Tag