Walkies led to su­per new aid be­ing de­signed

De­vice will help vis­ually im­paired

East Kilbride News - - NEWS - Co­lette Crampsey

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

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