Imagine arriving at a café to meet a friend for coffee and discovering that you can’t enter the building – because there is a single step.
This is the kind of situation Stacey Christie faces on a daily basis.
The 23-year-old, who has muscular dystrophy and uses an electric wheelchair, says tasks as simple as moving from the footpath onto the road, or tackling a step, are too often impossible.
“It’s not something people tend to think about when they don’t use a wheelchair but, for me, one or two steps mean I literally can’t get inside a lot of places.
“It’s hard not to feel a bit ostracised when everyone else can go somewhere and I can’t.”
It’s this frustration that led Miss Christie to join Australia’s first Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) Makeathon – an event where people who have a specific need join a team of engineers, designers, developers and health professionals to develop real-world solutions.
During the Makeathon, hosted by the Swinburne Innovation Precinct, the teams will work non-stop for 72 hours to create assistive technology prototypes, with the designs later made available online for free.
Dr Oren Tirosh, a Swinburne lecturer and expert in biomechanics and human movement, is part of the team tasked to develop a lightweight, portable ramp or device that would allow Miss Christie to go up and down steps and curbs.
“It is a fantastic chance to collaborate, to find people from different disciplines and people who have different ways of thinking, and to work together to see what we can do,” he said.
Miss Christie has plans to visit Europe next year and says the ability to be able to move around cities easily would have an immeasurable impact on her daily life.
“It sounds dramatic to say that it would be life-changing, but it actually would be.”
The TOM: Melbourne Makeathon will be officially opened by Victorian Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis on Monday 28 November.
Held across campus, teams will have supported access to a range of resources from Swinburne’s workshops, Factory of the Future, Digital Innovation Lab and Design Factory Melbourne.
Members of the public can register to take tours of the event during the three days.
Swinburne Innovation Precinct is contributing a prize of $2,000 worth of consultancy services to the team that demonstrates the best interdisciplinary teamwork.
This will include advice, introduction to relevant networks and entrepreneurs, and assistance with applying for various funding and support programs.