Derbyshire science firm helps engineering charity carry on solving problems to help those with disabilities

Scientists at a Derbyshire firm are helping out fellow engineers who have left the world of work and are now using their skills to help people with disabilities by making free bespoke aids.


Through its charities and communities committee, Lubrizol - whose UK headquarters is based at Hazelwood near Belper – has once more given annual financial support to the highly innovative charity Remap, which makes specialist aids provided free to people with disabilities.


Remap’s skilful volunteers are mainly engineers who like nothing better than to find solutions for people with disabilities who are having a specific problem for which there is no commercial solution.


Over the years, Remap’s volunteers have kept their brains and hands busy coming up with a series of brilliant one-off devices to help people, including a book page-turner for children in Royal Derby Hospital who were in wheelchairs and not able to use their hands; a fork holder to help someone cut meat, who previously did not have that ability, and a specially built swimming pool staircase for a girl with a motor impairment who had become too heavy for her mother to carry.


Mike Banks, a former Rolls-Royce engineer who now volunteers his skills with Derby, Burton & District Remap, said: “Engineers like nothing more than a challenge and then to solve it. If that challenge is going to restore a capability to a disabled person, then it’s three times as pleasurable!”


Not only do Remap’s engineers use their creative minds to achieve results for people who have lost a specific capability, they are also highly resourceful at recycling odds and ends lying around the workshop.


The book page-turner features clever use of a toothbrush and geared electric motors from two old screwdrivers, while Mike said another device he made for a person to be able to use a washing machine used the lifting mechanism taken out of an old bath seat.


However, the charity also needs financial support to buy materials when a recycled solution cannot be found. There are also costs incurred when volunteers travel to get what they need. On average, each pound donated to Remap produces twenty pounds’ worth of equipment.


Mike said: “I volunteer for Remap because I have received my education for free. I’ve got an engineering degree and it didn’t cost me a penny, but these days students have to pay an awful lot of money to get their qualifications. I really feel I have a duty to feed the knowledge that I have gained back into the community. It’s the way I feel about it. Being an engineer, we are able to provide this help to people who otherwise wouldn’t get help.”


Clients are referred to Remap’s services if they require a solution for a problem and there is nothing available on the market that would fix it. The charity helps many people each year by making specifically tailored aids ranging from simple furniture additions to highly complex devices.


Mike said the support from Lubrizol meant Remap was able to help more people referred to its services.


He said: “We get a huge kick out of seeing what our work does when someone gets a competence back that they may have lost years ago, or even gains a competence that they have never had from birth.


“It’s thanks to companies like Lubrizol that we’re able to continue to do this work, and we’re grateful to our fellow engineers for seeing the value in what we do at Remap and supporting us.”


Tom Grazier, technology deployment manager at Lubrizol and co-chair of its charities and communities committee, said: “The work that Remap does is just fantastic. It just shows that once you’re an engineer, you’re always an engineer! We have an engineering department here at Lubrizol and it’s great to see people who are no longer working as engineers continuing to use their professional skills in doing something so important for people who really need it. We support Remap every year and we’re delighted to carry on doing so.”


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