John's ingenious creations help the less fortunate
WHEN John Brumby was named as Mid North Coast Volunteer of the Year and Senior Volunteer of the Year for 2016, it was recognition for almost 11 years of work in finding practical solutions to highly individual problems.
John is the co-ordinator of the Mid North chapter of TAD Disability Services, based in Port Macquarie.
TAD (Technical Aid for the Disabled) brings together volunteers with design and technical skills to solve problems and create aids for people with disabilities.
He said that while much of their work involved modifying fairly standard pieces of equipment, like steps and rails to suit individual clients and premises, some of the problems they had faced had been real head-scratchers.
A grandmother who had lost an arm wanted a device which would allow her to buckle her two-year- old grandson into his car seat harness so she could take him to the park.
This job normally requires two hands.
John and his TAD group found a way of supporting the shoulder strap so she could buckle the lap belt to it, opening up a whole new area of activities for the pair.
A man with birth defects which left him with only one functional limb - his right arm - wanted to improve his independence and return to using prosthetic legs, as he had done as a child. But he could not reach to put on the soft stump liners which protect the surface of the natural limb from the harder artificial one and must be fitted snugly.
There was absolutely nothing on the market to do the job, but John's TAD team invented a simple device which made use of the expanding base of a cake tin and the tall fingers out of a sail batten with long prongs.
The device cost less than $30 to make and worked perfectly.
"It was great moment of jubilation at the physio department," John said.
He is currently making a "soft tray" for a student who travels to and from school in a taxi in a wheelchair, where hard trays are not permitted.
This tray is made from foam cut to shape and then covered with a durable material.
The tray is held in place by a strap which runs around the back of the wheelchair then Velcros back onto the side of the tray.
"We have been asked to include a clear plastic envelope type cover on the top surface of the tray so that the client can slide paperwork under it, and read while travelling to and from school," he said.
An industrial chemist who worked in the pulp and paper industry for 30 years, John said his science and engineering background had attracted him to the work TAD does.
He works on TAD projects for up to three days each week and says he finds a dual reward in solving the problem and the response from clients when the problem is solved.
The local group includes construction and civil engineers, carpenters and metal workers, some of whom have machinery like lathes,saw benches and welders in their home workshops while John's wife Mayo does sewing and makes cushions when these are needed.
Donations from local groups have now allowed them to buy a pipe bender to make curved rails.
Because they are all volunteers and make use of equipment and parts built for other purposes, the devices they make cost less
"I"m perhaps a hoarder, I put things aside that I might use some day so I have all these little labelled boxes," John said
"I've always had a fix it rather than throw it out mentality and I'm sometimes appalled by today's (disposable) standards."
His background in management of technical teams dedicated to solving problems gave John the perfect skills to take on "pushing paper" for TAD as well as practical projects.
His current concern is the lack of new members coming into the local group.
"Our numbers are very low at the moment, "John said.
"There seem to be a lot of competing interests and some people are downsizing and don't have workshops any more."
TAD also conducts Freedom Wheels bike clinics, which allow children with disabilities to ride a bike by modifying the machines.
The next Mid North Coast Freedom Wheels bike clinic is on February21, at St Thomas Anglican Church, Port Macquarie.
Info: TAD Disability Services on 1300663243.