Simple design to help Parkinson’s patients thrive

Mileha Soneji at TEDxDelft

Mileha Soneji at TEDxDelft

When Mileha Soneji’s uncle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she knew she couldn’t cure the illness herself, but she wanted to do whatever she could to help him cope. A designer, she turned to design for solutions; she spent day after day with her uncle to figure out what products could make everyday life easier for him. In a talk at TEDxDelft, Soneji explains how designing one-on-one with a person can create simple solutions that have immeasurable impact, not just for one person, but for many.

Soneji and her uncle first tackled the task of coffee drinking. He had stopped drinking coffee in public because tremors made his drink spill, so Soneji set out to design a product that would eliminate this problem for him. After studying the liquid flow in her uncle’s mug as he drank, Soneji realized that tremors created a pattern of spillage that a bell-shaped mug could halt full-stop. “[The mug] works purely on its form,” she explains in her talk. “The curve on top deflects the liquid back inside every time [a person] has tremors and keeps the liquid inside.”

Mileha Soneji's uncle drinking from her spill-proof mug (Photo: Mileha Soneji)

Mileha Soneji’s uncle drinking from her spill-proof mug (Photo: Mileha Soneji)

Soneji made sure to make the mug something her uncle would actually want to use in public, rather than creating an antiseptic medical device that would make him feel self-conscious. “[The mug] is not tagged as a Parkinson’s patient product,” she says. “It looks like a cup that could be used by you, me, any clumsy person — and that makes it much more comforting for [a person with Parkinson's] to use.”

Next, they tackled walking. When Soneji watched her uncle navigate his apartment, she saw that he had trouble walking across a room, but had no trouble climbing up and down stairs; somehow, the continuous motion of climbing and descending a staircase eased his symptoms. She wanted to know if perhaps merely the impression of climbing stairs could help her uncle’s mobility, so after many tests, she developed a “staircase illusion” floor, a painted design that simulates the experience of climbing a staircase and let her uncle move across flat floor with the same ease as a staircase.

Mileha Soneji's starcase illusion floor (Photo: Mileha Soneji)

Mileha Soneji’s staircase illusion floor (Photo: Mileha Soneji)

Soneji admits that her designs are not considered “smart” by the 21st-century standards, but hopes they will inspire other designers to craft simple designs that provide meaningful solutions for other people.

To learn more, watch Soneji’s whole talk below:

16 Comments

  1. rajendra prasad

    HI,iam 51years old and suffering from parkinsons disease from past 15yrs i find your website very helpfull and inovative ,please keep me also informed about any new findings to cure of this disease.thanks

  2. Mileha Soneji

    Thanks for your appreciation. I definitely will!

  3. Carol

    Great presentation! Thank you!
    Is the Staircase Illusion available for sale?
    My husband has Parkinson’s and he walks better on stairs.

  4. Carol

    Great presentation! Is the Staircase Illusion available for sale? My husband has Parkinson’s and it would be extremely beneficial for him. Thank you!

  5. Pamela Moore

    Hi Mileha
    Where can I get a stair case illusion? My mother suffers from PD and acute freezing of Gait, this doesn’t present when ascending/descending stairs. I think this might help her enormously.

    Kind regards
    Pamela Moore

    Ps You are doing a fantastic job by trying to improve people’s lives through clever
    design.

  6. Charlie Whitehorn

    What a fantastic talk.

    Did anyone find out where the Stair Case Illusion is available to buy as a carpet or a rug? My Uncle has Parkinson’s disease and I think this could revolutionise his life. Alternatively could we access the dimensions so we can try to recreate this/paint it at home on the floor?

    Many thanks, Charlie

  7. keith whitaker

    is the cup for sale? and the stairs?
    if so, where can I get them

  8. Mileha Soneji

    Hi,

    Sorry for the late response. For the Cup here is the website http://nospill.weebly.com/ and this should be available soon online.

    Also for the staircase illusion please email nospillcup@gmail.com.

    Thanks.

  9. Hi Mileha,

    We read about your story on Nospill and on this illusion, and we’d like to share it on the Patient Innovation platform (patient-innovation.com), a platform created to tell all about patients and caregivers’ solutions to improve their lives.
    We’d like to invite you to join the platform by register and post your story on this invention. It’s really easy, quick and free.
    It would mean a lot to us to have you with us. You could help and inspire a lot of people. I’m here if you have any questions or doubts.

    Regards,

  10. Matteo Mazzantini

    Hi, my dad has just recently been diagnosed with PD. I am in year 12 at the moment and am in need for design and technology major project ideas. My dad makes coffee for my mother (and any guests) with a manual espresso machine (also known as lever espresso machine) and has trouble with some movements required to use it.

    My email is m_mazzantini@hotmail.com

    I will talk to my dad and find the exact areas he has trouble with and update but if anyone has idea, please send them my way. :)

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