A new design of spoon has revolutionized the way Grant Douglas(1), a man with cerebral palsy, can eat. Now, the team behind S'up Spoon are campaigning to take the product into production and transform mealtimes for more people with shaky hands.
"Eating in a restaurant would just be unthinkable before," said Grant. "This is a major breakthrough. I can eat Chinese with two portions of rice as well as ice-cream totally independently and with very little spillage. It could increase the independence and choice of many people who have unwanted hand or arm movements, including myself."
Cerebral palsy(2) affects a person's movement and coordination, meaning loose and liquid-based foods can be difficult to eat. This frustration is shared among people with other conditions - such as essential tremor(3) or Parkinson's - who the S'up Spoon team hope will also reap the benefits of the spoon if it is taken into production.
The S'up Spoon was developed in conjunction with Grant by Glasgow-based consultancy 4c Design(4). The spoon head has a deeper cavity to hold contents more securely and reduce spillage. The sleek contours and matte black finishing ensure this product is in no way singled out as an assistive device; it is, perhaps, simply a new perspective on the traditional spoon.
The S'up Spoon started at 4c as an intern project for Mark Penver(5), who was soon began work at the company full-time as his project gained traction. "Grant gave us a lot of direction working on the spoon," says Mark. "It was important to balance the function with long-term durability and inclusivity. We wanted to create a product that allowed Grant to expand his diet, both at home and when eating out with friends."
Now, the S'up Spoon team are attempting to raise funds through the online platform Kickstarter(6) to take the spoon into mass production. If the project receives enough support through people pledging to buy the spoon the investment will be funded.
Designing the S'up Spoon
Grant Douglas has cerebral palsy and turned his frustration eating with a spoon into an idea for a new product. Now, after working with a design consultancy to bring it to life, Grant tells us the story behind the S'up Spoon and how we can support the project to take it to market.
I can't stand people who just moan, moan, moan; I have never moaned about having cerebral palsy. The only time that I complain is when people patronize me or treat me like I'm 4 when I'm actually 40 or being treated worse simply because I'm disabled. Don't get me wrong, living in a world which has been designed for non-disabled people is not always easy; on the other hand, it can have its benefits, like jumping queues at airports and big amusement parks, getting front row seats at the Commonwealth Games and parking close to entrances of shops whilst people are being soaked in the rain.
Having said I'm irritated by people who moan, you might, justifiably, want to ask the question, 'How do you cope when your impairment does stop you doing things' Well, my approach is two-fold: a) is there a way of doing it a bit differently to get the same result b) could I design something that would enable me to do it? Fortunately, I love solving problems and am very determined to live life to the full, if someone says, 'you'll never do that,' well, that's like showing a red rag to a bull!
Having a combination of ataxic and athetoid cerebral palsy has affected my hand control, speech and walking pattern since birth. Apart from people's attitudes, one of my biggest challenges has been eating, especially with a spoon; I have extremely limited use of my right hand and the level of control over my left hand is nothing like what non-disabled people have. I can manage to get whatever I want on to a spoon but by the time I get the spoon to my mouth the food is either on the floor, table, wall - anywhere apart from on the spoon. I can just about manage things like ice-cream or moist cake as they 'stick' to the spoon, but cereals, soups, peas and corn are literally impossible, especially when eating out. This has limited my choice in restaurants, prevented me from eating certain things at home or relying on others to 'feed me'. I hate being fed as you have little or no choice in what order you eat things and the only other people who are fed are babies or toddlers.
Going back to my coping mechanism, well, I couldn't see a different way of eating cereal or soup. A straw didn't work as it got clogged up really easily. I looked everywhere on the internet and although I found a few things, nothing really worked for me. A few years ago now I had a eureka moment when I decided I needed a spoon with a lid on it. Again, I searched, searched and searched again but came up with nothing.
Whenever people started to talk about 'making your millions' or 'you should patent that' I always mentioned my idea, but time and time again nothing happened. Then, about a year ago, a friend at Church overheard my idea, thought about it for a few weeks and then asked me if she could pass it on to her friend, Robin, who is the director of 4c Design. Robin asked if they could take it on as a social project for their new intern, Mark. I couldn't believe it; my 'pie in the sky idea' was actually being taken seriously.
So, the project began. Mark and Robin visited me in my flat, took photos and film footage of me attempting to eat sweetcorn (I was going to try soup, but didn't want to have to redecorate!). Mark went away, did his own research and looked at what was feasible. He decided anything with mechanical buttons would be too cumbersome, so looked at ways of reducing spillage. Two days before Christmas I visited the 4c workshop and he gave me two prototypes of what is now the S'up Spoon. These prototypes have enabled me to have soup (on Boxing Day I had a whole bowl of soup without spilling a drop); my breakfast has changed from toast/crumpets to Weetabix; and I can enjoy a hassle-free Chinese with my friends. These are but a few ways that the S'up Spoon has changed my eating habits.
Realizing the difference the spoon has made to me, the design team have decided to try to make it available to anyone who could benefit from it; we think it could help anyone who has unwanted hand/upper body movements including those with Parkinson's disease, strokes, or those who have less control due to age. Therefore a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to raise the £33,000 required to take it in to mass production. You can help to raise this amount by pledging to buy a spoon. In an ideal world this spoon will be available in every eating outlet as well as any home of a person who would benefit from it as well as the homes of their friends and family. Please support this campaign by watching the product film, following the project on Twitter/Facebook or pledging to buy a spoon on Kickstarter.
If the project is successfully funded within the 30-day period 4c intend to be distributing the first batch of online orders before Christmas 2014. To donate to the project please visit the S'up Spoon Kickstarter page at kck.st/1qUrMIH
For further information please contact:
4c Design ltd, The Design Hub R13, 100 Borron street, Glasgow, G4 9XG T: 0141 353 5490 F: 0141 353 5491 E: email@example.com W: www.4cdesign.co.uk
(1) Grant Douglas is 40 and lives independently in his own flat in Edinburgh. Having graduated from Napier University with a BSc in Computer Science, he went over to the US to explore how they achieved disability rights and has worked in various organizations seeking to achieve equality for disabled people in housing, voting, education and health. He is currently working part-time for Children in Scotland as their IT Officer; on a freelance-basis for Talking Mats as a Project Officer; and is a Disability Equality Trainer with Capability Scotland. He is also an Elder at Blackhall St Columba's Church and is the convenor of a fundraising committee. In his spare time he enjoys foreign travel, including going with Disability Snowsport UK to sit-ski in the US, keeping fit at the gym and socializing with friends. He has had cerebral palsy since birth, which affects his hand control, speech and walking pattern.
(2) Cerebral palsy is a general term used to describe a disorder that affects a person's movement and coordination.
(3) Essential tremor is a condition characterized by shaking or trembling that increases in severity with time. Its cause is unknown.
(4) Established in 2002 in Scotland, award winning 4c Design combines years of experience, creativity and engineering ability to deliver product design engineering solutions. For over ten years 4c have combined creativity with engineering expertise, building a product design consultancy dedicated to developing ground-breaking and successful products. 4cdesign.co.uk
(5) Mark Penver studied Industrial Design at Northumbria University. Following a graduate internship at 4c he is now employed full time and is leading the S'up Spoon project and its Kickstarter campaign. Before joining 4c Design Mark worked on a freelance basis for 3 years in the innovation management sector.
(6) Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects. Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen and often receive rewards related to the project. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing - projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money. kickstarter.com