While working on their senior capstone project at the University of Rochester Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, David Narrow and his classmates were surprised to learn about the need for innovative adaptive athletic equipment.
“Different people came in to talk to our class about design problems or areas that they are hoping to see a solution,” Narrow told O&P Business News. “There was a representative from a local group called the Al Sigl Center, which has a program called SportsNet where they provide outlets for individuals with assistive or adaptive needs to participate in a variety of sports. One thing he told us was there were several devices designed for people in wheelchairs who don’t have use of their legs, but amputees and stroke survivors are often overlooked because they have unique issues with hemiparesis and the inability to use one side of their body.”
With this in mind, Narrow and his classmates decided to focus on designing adaptive equipment for this population.
“We spent some time discussing potential avenues to innovate around this hurdle and figure out what would be best to help overcome some of those barriers to participate in sports and lead a healthy independent lifestyle,” Narrow said. “And we agreed cycling was an ideal area to target due to rehabilitative and self-mobility benefits.”
Working with fellow classmates Sara Hutchinson, Martin Szeto, Jackson Block and Dominic Marino, Narrow began brainstorming ideas for creating an adaptive cycling method.
“We realized that designing some way to adapt a bike or a trike to be used by stroke survivors or someone with cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis or anything involving one-handed or one-sided weakness would be powerful for these individuals who, because of injury or stroke, can’t participate in the sport,” Narrow said.
Images: MonoMano Cycling
The group created an adaptive handlebar that can be attached to the existing handlebar of a recumbent tricycle. The handlebar allows the user to steer, shift gears and brake with only one hand and foot.
“We have centrally located all of the controls where you can put a single hand on the central grip, and without moving your hand, you can shift to all 21 gears of the trike and activate both brakes simultaneously with a single lever,” Narrow said. “It is a safe way to control the functionality of the trike without sacrificing safety or performance.”
The handlebar also received the 2013 Student of da Vinci Award for Accessibility and Universal Design. The da Vinci Awards is an international competition honoring innovations in adaptive and assistive technologies, and the Student of da Vinci Award recognizes the best student submission in the competition.
Narrow and his classmates received positive feedback from all of the users of the device, and at the insistence of their testers and their testers’ families, they decided to turn their project into a business.
“People were excited to see it and got emotional when they tried it out,” Narrow said. “So kind of spontaneously, we decided to try to raise some money and make these on a bigger scale and get them to the people who could actually benefit.”
In order to create their business, they relied on prize money they had already won, as well as crowdsourcing to raise funds. The name of the business, MonoMano Cycling, is a play on words.
“I knew that the prefix ‘mono’ in English meant one, and then pairing that with the Spanish word for hand had a nice ring to it,” Narrow said.
MonoMano Cycling offers the MonoMano adaptive handlebar that can be attached to a customer’s existing tricycle, as well as tricycles that come already equipped with the device.
“We know this isn’t something we are going to make personal, capital gains from,” Narrow said. “It’s something that we realize helps people, and in order to continue helping people, we split up some of the work and continue to push this forward.”
According to Narrow, the company hopes to primarily market their device to rehabilitation facilities and therapy offices in order to reach their target market.
“We recognize it is not something that is readily affordable to our target user,” Narrow said. “We want to incentivize some of the rehab clinics that have more purchasing power than an individual to have this available in their center for their patients to use when they are making their weekly or monthly visits.
“Our goal has always been to reach as many potential users as possible. We have recognized that a much greater population would be able to benefit from the device if it was available in these public settings, as opposed to only at individual homes,” Narrow added. — by Megan Gilbride
Disclosure: Narrow is one of the creators of the MonoMano handlebar and a founding member of MonoMano Cycling.