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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 August 2006, 22:47 GMT 23:47 UK
'My hands shake all the time'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

HandSteady
Tonia, who trialled the HandSteady device, says it is effective
Tonia Wells has a hereditary hand tremor in both hands.

Her condition is getting progressively more pronounced - and she says it is dominating her life.

She finds writing difficult, and found it difficult to find work.

But what she, and many others, find the most difficult thing to cope with is their inability to hold a cup steady.

For the last 14 years she has only been able to drink tea in her kitchen, as she can not hold a cup steadily enough to move from one room to another. And she needs to use a straw to drink cold drinks.

Innovation

However, a graduate from the Royal College of Arts' design school could have the answer - the Hand Steady.

Psychologically it is devastating. Every day is difficult
Tonia Wells

By holding drinks in a rubber grip that rotates, the device keeps the cup steady while people are drinking.

Tonia, who has tested the Hand Steady, said it is a fantastic innovation for people like herself.

"I found it very good. There are not many people who design things for hand tremor and something like this is really fantastic for us.

"I have had a hand tremor since I was just nine years old and it has got progressively worse.

"It is very difficult eating and drinking, a lot of people with hand tremors will not drink at all in public.

Tonia Wells
Tonia has had a tremor since she was nine

"Psychologically it is devastating. Every day is difficult. Your mind is always active because you are always thinking about managing your day.

"So it is fantastic that someone has taken the time to do something like this to help."

Tonia, aged 43, from Essex, said her son has also now developed the condition.

Empower

Designer Chris Peacock said he hoped his Hand Steady could also be used by people in trains, cars and planes to hold their drinks steady.

"My design is about empowering people across the world to socialise over drinks without worrying about spilling," he said.

Chris explained that nearly 5% of the population, about 300m people globally, are affected by body tremors.

He said he hoped his design could make their lives slightly easier.

Some of them would rather stay at home than face the embarrassment of spilling, or dropping things
Chris Peacock

"Some of them would rather stay at home than face the embarrassment of spilling, or dropping things.

"It affects a lot of people. I have had over 7,000 people visit my forum to discuss this.

"I wanted to design a product that would help them do things for themselves."

Technology

Leslie Findley, a professor of neurology and the medical director of the National Tremor Foundation where Tonia now works, said the design should help many of his members.

"This is a common disability, and this kind of technology offers a way forward for these individuals in terms of everyday activities.

"This for instance will be incredibly useful for the act of drinking, which is an essential and important social activity.

"Patients with tremor are often very disabled in terms of being able to socialise in restaurants, and in the home because they are unable to pick up a glass or cup, an activity which will exaggerate their tremor.

"I'm impressed with the simplicity and potential uses of this type of technology."

Professor Findley said he had been so impressed with Chris' work that he had asked him to speak at the National Tremor Foundation's annual meeting.

Chris has won the Design for Disability award, at the Royal College of Art and the Help the Aged 'Design for Our Future Selves' award, through the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre at the Royal College of Art.

He has applied for a patent and is now hoping his design will attract offers from businesses keen to produce it.


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