Disability Innovations: The next generation of tableware

Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.

What is “Staybowl”?

Staybowl is a bowl that will not tip when in use. The same technology can be used to adapt many other items, including your own tableware so that they too become stable and cannot tip. Staybowl can be used on any surface, including a tablecloth and has not only been designed to be very functional, it also looks great.

What’s the story behind it?

Malcolm and Loretta Rhodes have a daughter, Michela, who has Cerebral Palsy affecting her manual dexterity and fine motor skills.  This means she often has difficulties when eating independently.

Malcolm attended a Scope focus group to discuss what items parents and carers of disabled people would like to see readily available at stores such as IKEA. He discovered many other people had the same challenge as Michela, and would love to see a bowl that would not tip, thereby making eating independently a lot easier and safer for many people.

Currently available products were discussed (such as suction cup bowls and skirt bowls) but everyone agreed these had limitations and something new was needed.

How does it work?

The challenge was to design a bowl that was functional but would not stand out as a bowl for disabled people and actually looked great.

As parents, Malcolm and Loretta had vast experience of bringing up a disabled child to adulthood so fully understood the needs of the potential users.

They decided to fix the bowl to another object that itself could not be tipped. The way to do it was to use the same mechanism as that found on a food processor, by simply engaging the two parts and turning slightly to lock them together. They become, temporarily, a single item. It was also decided to embed the bottom part of the mechanism into a place mat.

The reason this makes the bowl untippable is that the edge of the place mat is either at or beyond the edge of the bowl as in the below diagrams.

The next day the first prototype was produced using a porcelain bowl, a mechanism made from a Thermos flask cup and a standard place mat. It worked, the bowl would not tip.

With the support of Innovate UK, Malcolm worked with a local product designer, who using CAD and 3D printing produced a working model of the mechanism to be used.

A CAD prototype was produced of a place mat incorporating the bottom half of the mechanism, and a bowl incorporating the top half of the mechanism. This proved that the product could be both useful and stylish. Further prototypes were developed in response to testing, including improving the portability of the product.

The finished prototype even allows you to use your own tableware on the base.

What is the potential?

With research and development complete Malcolm is now looking at how to take the product to market, including discussions with major distributors. But it is also an opportunity to get involved with Staybowl at the early stages, as they seek business partners and investors. Malcolm is also looking for people who can understand and make use of the product. If you fall into either, or both of these groups then contact us at innovation@scope.org.uk and we can put you in touch with Malcolm directly to find out more.

What we like about it

What we like about Stay Bowl is that Malcolm heard a problem, direct from potential users, and went away and solved it simply and effectively. Keeping in mind a design that people would actually want to use – not sacrificing aesthetics for practicality. Fingers crossed you’ll see it on the market soon.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

S is for sensation – #EndtheAwkward

Having sensory processing disorder can be frustrating, but as Lola Phoenix explains, when it comes to sex, it can actually be a huge bonus.

Lola also has some hot tips for how all of us can benefit from overloading our senses in the bedroom

S is for sensation is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.

This blog contains frank information about sex. It’s meant for people over the age of 16, please only continue if you are 16 or older.

Close up of Lola smiling in leather jacket
Lola loves how their sensory processing disorder impacts their sex life

Sensory Processing Disorder is one piece of my autistic spectrum puzzle. My brain processes my senses in a different way, so for me, senses can be overwhelming.

The sudden burst of ambulance sirens wailing past physically jars me. If I eat something with an odd texture, it can make me feel so sick, I can’t eat anything else. I frequently rip tags out of my clothing when the feeling becomes too much.

If I don’t manage my senses correctly, at parties or loud gatherings with lots of people talking at once, I can end up crying in a corner, unable to move because of sensory overload.

Sensory processing and sex

I actually love having a sensory processing disorder, and being on the autistic spectrum. And, I won’t lie – sex can be a huge way that I benefit from my ‘disorder’.

For some people, sensory processing is a big reason why they don’t like sex. But some of us have exactly the opposite experiences.

For all of the bad overwhelming experiences I can have, there are a load of good overwhelming experiences I can have.

For me, sex is overwhelming, but in a very good way. Because my senses are so sensitive to different things, it can mean the definition of ‘sex’ can be widened. Because for me, a range of sensations are all part of the same positive overwhelming experience.

What is sensation play?

‘Sensation play’ involves using different temperatures or textures and sometimes even pain, in a romantic or sexual context.

For me sensation play is a lot more intense and fun than it might be for non-autistic people.

Because sex is a way for me to connect with someone, sensation play can become a fun way to connect with someone, which is just as intense as sex.

A few things to try at home

Two wax candles, a wartensberg wheel and role of bondage tape
Some of Lola’s sensation tools you can buy

Even if you don’t experience senses intensely, sensation play can still be a lot of fun to try! Here are a few of the basic things to give a go:

  • Use a blindfold… It’s simple, but it can do a lot!
  • Feathers and silk can be fun, especially if you’re blindfolded…
  •  Some people like tickling in this context too.
  • Paraffin wax candles can be used for wax play (not the regular candles for lighting in your house as those will burn)
  • Try toys you can put in the freezer safely
  • Wartenburg wheels look intimidating but they’re actually great for beginners at sensation play
  • Try bondage tape, as a good alternative to rope if you’re a beginner…

But before you try anything, do your research! Make sure you’re doing everything safely.

Rethink the definition of ‘disorder’

I’ve been told by a GP, ‘You don’t look autistic!’ and on top of that he claimed, ‘That’s a compliment!’

Sometimes I say that I have sensory processing ‘disorder’ (in inverted commas) because it doesn’t always feel like a ‘disorder’ to me.

People with autisim are just as varied and diverse as the rest of the population, and deserve just as much respect.

Having this great ability to feel different senses intensely is one of the many benefits that being on the spectrum brings to me.

S is for sensation is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z.

R is for Romance #EndTheAwkward

Light some candles and chill a bottle of fizz – it’s time for some romance. In this post, Emily Yates writes a love letter to her partner of three years Rob Hughes. The loved-up couple met on a trip to southern Africa with the Journey of a Lifetime Trust

R is for Romance is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability.

They say laughter is the best medicine. For me, you’ve proved that to be true. Sometimes we only have to look at each other to burst out in giggles. From when we first met on that boat and I was invited to put my dangling legs on yours for comfort, watching seals and southern African sun, you’ve always made me grin.

Writing this alone is making me chuckle, recollecting all the times I’ve probably done your head in but you’ve been patient… refusing to go to sleep until you’ve warmed up my freezing cold feet with yours every night is definitely high on the list. Sorry, no amount of socks, duvets or heating will ever do the trick quite as well.

Emily and Rob_edit

I’m so proud of who we are when we are together. How you’ve always dealt with my wheelchair so well – chucking me around Brazilian beaches and rushing through the streets of Morocco so we don’t have to buy one more bloody trinket that we’ll never look at again. There’s a ‘get on with it’ attitude that I adore.

So many people I know would be embarrassed to watch me crawling up a flight of stairs in public, would do all they could to wrap me up and save me the indecency. To you, it’s a challenge. A personal one for me and one for society. The quiet ‘go on, babe, keep going’ always spurs me on when you know I’m struggling.

That Moroccan train journey will never fade in my mind. How you somehow managed to get all the bags on and find me a seat on the busiest train we’d ever set our eyes on, whilst giving my wheelchair to the elderly lady who just couldn’t stand anymore, and putting your arm out to steady her whenever she needed it. The beautiful ring she gave me as thanks for making the four-hour journey easier for her will always be a huge symbol of how caring you are. No praise needed, you just want to help others.

“You’re their laughter medicine as well as mine”

There’s nothing better than just knowing that someone will be there for you if you need them. Something as simple as getting in and out of the bath is fine most of the time, but hard work on a bad day. The fact that you ask whether I need a hand every single time just makes it so much easier. Usually, I’ll say ‘no thanks’, but the pressure is off for whenever the answer might be ‘yes’.

I see the way people look at us. Often it’s like you’re the greatest man in the world for having a disabled girlfriend, sometimes with a strange pity. But honestly? Most of the time they see us whizzing around the supermarket, hand in hand and just generally being silly, and they smile too. Sometimes, you’re their laughter medicine as well as mine.

Oh, and you’re the best leg shaver out there.

Emily Yates is a 24-year-old accessibility consultant, travel writer and presenter. Next month she’s launching her own business, My Purple Compass, creating and selling mobility and intimacy aids so that everyone can feel stylish and sexy.

If you’re in the mood for more romance, read this moving love letter published by US-based site The Mighty:

A love letter to my neurotypical husband, from your autistic wife

Before you, I knew in my marrow that I would never be suited for a conventional love relationship. How could a woman who exists mostly in her own inner world, so tightly controlled, ever share a life with another person — until “death do us part,” no less? Every attempt I’d ever made at normal had failed miserably. I am too complicated, too particular, too cerebral.

Read the rest at TheMighty.com

R for Romance is part of Scope’s A to Z of sex and disability. Read the rest of the A to Z.