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Innovative design tackles everyday challenges

Arthritis Today Winter 2017 Issue 174The Workey key turnerWhen you’re dealing with the big problems of living with arthritis, like pain, stiffness and inflamed joints, the last thing you need is lots more smaller problems that can make life even more difficult. Those everyday struggles to open a jar, lock a front door, get out of the bath or lift a kettle can sometimes feel like the last straw. So, for the second year running, we’ve teamed up with the Design Council to find and fund the best and brightest design ideas hoping to make everyday life better for people with arthritis.

Once again Arthritis Research UK supported a category at the annual Spark Awards inviting product designers to put forward ingenious practical solutions to the challenges faced by people living with arthritis.

The 2017 Spark Award judges chose the Workey as this year’s winning design; a key turner tool created to help people with arthritis in their hands who struggle to grip and turn keys. It stood out because of its attractive and accessible design, created to be lightweight, easy to use and fit comfortably on a key chain in your pocket. Workey designer Geoff Rolandsen is hoping the funding and the recognition that the award win has brought will help him market and promote his product to a wider audience, so it can make a difference to people’s lives as soon as possible.

Helen Hurman, Head of Research Operations for Arthritis Research UK, sat on the judging panel. She says: "As well as being impressed by the Workey’s practical and appealing design, we chose this product because it was clear people with arthritis had been involved in its design from start to finish.

"Geoff’s fantastic pitch showed he’d taken the time to really understand this market, asking for feedback from people with arthritis and modifying his designs accordingly throughout the Workey’s development."

Last year's winner

Meanwhile the creators of 2016’s winning design – Handy Fasteners – have used the funding awarded for their win last year to take their idea from initial concept to production in just twelve months. The company now offers an online retro-fitting service, so you can post items of clothing to their team who will replace fiddly buttons with a handy magnetic alternative before returning to you.

Read next: New report says PIP process 'not fit for purpose'

A man looking at paperwork

The problems experienced by many people with arthritis when trying to access Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are highlighted in Supporting Those Who Need It Most?, a hard-hitting report from the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC).

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Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.