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Brief Published: 4 Jun 2019

Designing Desirable Disability Aids: Ergonomic Cutlery

Sarah Convolo

The utilitarian design of disability products often results in a dreary and uninspiring range of options for users. Enter Australian designer Sarah Convolo, whose ergonomic cutlery collection recycles hospital waste and brings some much-needed grace to the medical sector.

Convolo is working with Western Health in Melbourne to investigate how hospitals can establish a circular recycling system by rerouting waste into new products for patients.

She was initially given 12kg of clean, polyethylene syringes that were being discarded by the health service provider due to a branding change (used syringes would present a biohazard, making them unsuitable for the project). Convolo grounds them down into small pellets which she melts and sets in 3D-printed moulds of various curved shapes.

The result is a collection of detachable modular cutlery handles that can be added to knives, spoons and forks of numerous shapes. The handles are pale blue and twist in soft, ergonomic forms to wrap around hands and be held in multiple ways to assist eating for users with limited mobility. 

Convolo draws on her own struggle with visual impairment to guide her approach to the project. She believes there’s a ripe opportunity for designers to look at disability product from the user’s perspective, and create goods that are both functional and beautiful.

“If I was a quadriplegic, if I needed an apparatus to eat with, I would like it to look nice,” she said. “[The cutlery] is something that I would choose to use, and I didn’t understand why it didn’t exist in the first place.”

For more ergonomic eating tools, see our coverage of Ambiente 2019. To discover how clever design is updating health spaces and services, see Medi-Retail: New Health Horizons.