Mileha Soneji: Simple hacks for life with Parkinson’s


Simple solutions are often best, even when dealing with something as complicated as Parkinson’s. In this inspiring talk, Mileha Soneji shares accessible designs that make the everyday tasks of those living with Parkinson’s a bit easier. “Technology is not always it,” she says. “What we need are human-centreed solutions.”

Mileha Soneji is a trained strategic product designer, originally hailing from the city of Pune in India. She currently works in the Netherlands as a strategist. Her work entails combining the fuzzy front-end of the design process with emerging technologies to answer the question of what needs to be designed in the future.

Even as a child, Mileha had a keen interest in (re)designing things around her, even though she had little knowledge about it as a profession. This led her to take up the Bachelor in Product Design at the MIT School of Design. After graduation, she got a couple of years of work experience in India, where she quickly realized that apart from the actual tangible design, a successful product needs a backbone of thorough research in user needs and market analysis. The need to study this further brought Mileha to Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to study Strategic Product Design for her Masters.

Mileha decided she wanted to help her uncle. Her goal was not to cure Parkinson’s, but instead to make the everyday tasks of those living with Parkinson’s much easier.

She first looked at helping her uncle with his tremors and drinking. She designed a no-spill cup to aid in this process. One day, she questioned how her uncle walked up and down the stairs. Surprisingly, he was able to do this without any problem, but as soon as he stopped, he had trouble walking again. She decided to apply a ‘Staircase Illusion’ to the floor by having the illusion of a staircase flowing throughout her uncle’s house. To her surprise, this simple solution was able to help her uncle move around the house faster and more easily.

Still working on her goal of helping those with Parkinson’s live easier lives, she advocates the idea of “a human-centreed solution.” Technology might not always be the immediate answer, but perhaps small, simple solutions can have a large impact.

I believe that having empathy and being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes is what makes a great design.

Mileha Soneji

The Health-Care Survivor’s Comment

This video shows the testing of the ‘Staircase Illusion’, and demonstrates how much of a difference it made to the ease with which Mileha’s uncle could move around his home with confidence, once again. I am a fan of using technology, when it provides the best solutions, but I know, from the personal experience of my own disability, that the simplest, and most reliable solution is always the best, whether or not it requires technology.

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