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Within Reach


Center for Disability Services

Albany, NY



Problem definition, Market research, User research, Ideation, Prototyping, User Testing, Design for manufacturing

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Within Reach is the name of my senior capstone project for biomedical engineering. My group and I worked on the problem we defined as: "There is a significant number of doors in-accessible to wheelchair users which instills a lack of independence, loss of time, and increased frustration in wheelchair users." By going through the design process, my team and I were able to develop a device that helps wheelchair users open a majority of manual doors on their own. 


After carrying out state-of-the-art research, research on our clients, and interviews, my team and I headed to the studio to brainstorm any solutions we had to the problem of wheelchair users struggling to open manual doors on their own.

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Breaking it Down

To help guide our brainstorming, we further defined what our solution had to accomplish by breaking down the actions of opening a door: unlatching the doorknob, opening the closed unlatched door, and holding the door open for the user to pass through safely. As you can see in the image above, we brainstormed solutions for each stage.

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Once we had a better idea of exactly what the device needed to accomplish, we set out to design and prototype the idea we had landed on after our brainstorming session (Note: 3 ideas were explored in detail, however, we only moved forward with this one). The image below shows all of our prototypes in reverse chronological order. We started with cardboard and ended with painted laser-cut wood.


Final Design for Manufacturing

The final design was rendered in SolidWorks. It features a head that allows the user to open doors with handles including a lever, loop, and panel handle. The shaft is collapsible to allow for portability by turning the adjuster in the middle of the shaft. There is also an ergonomic cushion grip for the user to comfortably use the device. Lastly, we included a wedge to hold the door open for the user to pass though. The wedge folds up flush with the bottom portion of the shaft.

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Presenting Our Design

This project was presented at the Biomedical Engineering Capstone Showcase at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A short pitch video was made to present our design as if we were a company, Within Reach.

The showcase allowed for visitors to come to our booth and try out the device. We built a door frame for a door being thrown out and obtained a wheelchair from the Center of Disability Services to allow users to try the device in the situation where it is needed.

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