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Assistive Technology Transfer Update


Title: T2RERC provides technical assistance to inventors
Author: Jo Ann Norek
Published: 2001
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 3 Issue 2 (Summer)


Oftentimes products are invented only to reach a stand still when the inventor has expended all options for seeing the product reach the market. T2RERC's Supply-Push Program has the ability to pick up where the inventors are forced to leave off and potentially see the product go to market. This article outlines this occurrence and provides examples for further comprehension.

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Full Text

As part of our ongoing mission, the T2RERC provides Technical Assistance to inventors, researchers and manufacturers who have questions regarding the new assistive technology devices they have developed. This assistance may range from spending a few minutes on the telephone answering their general questions about the next step required to bring a product to market, to performing a more in-depth review of the device. This review may include our providing competing product information, critiquing the feasibility of an invention, providing contact information to link them to distributors and manufacturers, or offering guidance on identifying other organizations that may provide assistance to the inventor. The T2RERC answers hundreds of these technical assistance requests each year.

An example of just one of those ‘technical assists' is our work on the Magic Motion Door Knob.

Opening doors for people with limited limb use
An inventor who has a disability – and the American entrepreneurial spirit – John Baker of Evansville, Indiana had a great idea (a better doorknob), which he developed into the "Magic Motion Door Knob", a universally designed replacement knob for interior doors. With a soft push of the knob, you can gain entrance to a room, and with a slight pull you can open the door on the reverse side to exit as easily as you entered.

The device is beneficial not only for people who have difficulty grasping the doorknob, but also for those with limited ability to turn it. In one test, the device enabled a door to be opened and closed solely employing a "reacher", (a short pole with a full hand grip and grasping claw that extends the reach of wheelchair users). The Magic Motion Door Knob functions just as well as a traditional door knob when you turn the handle, and it provides you with the second option of pushing or pulling it.

It seemed that John Baker was well on his way to getting his product into the market place – or so he thought! He had promoted his idea, secured the financial backing, begun having the product manufactured, and had even applied for US and International patents. However, he ran into the proverbial brick wall: getting the product its own place in the commercial market. The recent downturn in the stock market made his investors wary of putting the additional funding into John's product that would enable him to produce enough products to sell.

Making the smart move
It was at this time that John approached the T2RERC's Supply-Push Program Coordinator, Jim Leahy, for assistance. Staff at the Center went into action; they conducted market research, evaluated the device's functionality, reviewed the product's history, and presented the inventor with their findings and suggested options.

John presented the polished professional information packet to potential backers, as a tool for leveraging the needed capital to get more of the doorknobs manufactured. The Supply-Push team made calls to some industry contacts. Consequently, John Baker will not only be advertising his product in targeted cities through a broadcast commercial, he is also now in negotiation with a major manufacturer to assume production of the Magic Motion Door Knob.

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