Ingenuity helps when health challenges get in the way of doing laundry, tying shoes, buttoning shirts

For Betty Harper and Bill Harvey, it’s the simple things that matter — like doing their own laundry.

Both live at a long-term care facility in Hamilton, Ont. Betty was born with cerebral palsy. Bill jumped out of a burning building and suffered a severe spinal cord injury. Both use wheelchairs.

So when first-year engineering students at McMaster University asked them what they could do to make their lives easier, Harper and Harvey had one answer: create a device to help them turn on a washing machine.

“I can’t reach the buttons and it’s just really difficult for me to do the whole task. I have to hire a person to do it for me and I have to pay her for it. And I’d like to do it on my own, if I could,” Harper says.

Making life easier is all part of a university program called the Impact Project. Students from biology, engineering, medicine and occupational therapy have…

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