Creator of the Roark Design Commode

In 2017, Tom Carr was in a multi-trauma motor vehicle accident and sustained a complete T4 paraplegia spinal cord injury. After rehabilitation with physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medical management, Tom was able to return home. Supported by his family, friends, support and medical staff, and with LSA assistance, home modifications including an accessible shed were completed, allowing Tom to return to his job as a mechanical engineer designing medical devices.

Tom has always had an interest in good design, specifically design that empowers people. With degrees in mechanical engineering and lifelong tinkering, Tom could see problems from a different perspective (necessity is the mother of invention) and found he had a slew of ideas – all thanks to his severance package – irony is not lost to realise these ideas evaded him pre-spinal injury. Living life with a different lens propelled Tom to resign from his job and put his engineering and invention skills to good use to design products that are functional, well-made locally and empowering.

As Tom states:

‘humanity is very good at doing complex things, but the utilitarian products are often left behind.’ Motivated by the challenge of creation and with a revelation that good design is nowhere more vital than in the disability space, Tom put his severance package to good use to create the ‘Roark Design Commode’.

Tom Carr – Creator of the Roark Design Commode

Since the accident, Tom uses a shower chair and keeps an additional portable shower chair for travelling. The second travel commode requires assembly  which takes 10 minutes with tools, weighs 22kg, and makes independent travel impossible.

The commode, which was 2-years and 8 iterations in the making, solves this problem. The chair folds open and closed in 60 seconds and requires no tools for assembly. It clips onto the user’s wheelchair for easy transportation, and weighs 10–12 kg. Tom has anecdotal evidence from his physiotherapist that once a fortnight, someone tips forward and out of their commode. Within the design, Tom has considered the tipping issue and incorporated other lived experience issues to ensure one single quality design replaces the need for 2 shower chairs.

With encouragement from his partner, and growing knowledge of disability issues due to Tom’s own lived experience, ideas for mobility creations continue to flow. Tom is keen to develop his next idea – but you’ll have to wait for another article to read about what’s in the pipeline!

Tom will present at the International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) SA Awards event on 3 December at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

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