Neater Solutions - Background

Neater Solutions Limited is a small company based in Buxton, Derbyshire, United Kingdom that designs, manufactures and distributes specialist equipment for people with disabilities.

Neater Solutions is best known for its system of eating aids called the Neater Eater. This is a modular system with different choices to suit people with different abilities. One choice is an electric powered programmable version. Other products include: Neater Drinkers, a powered mobile arm support called the Neater Arm Support and the Neater Uni-Chair which is a one-arm drive wheelchair for people with hemiplegia incorporating single foot steering and a differential drive.

In the UK, individual equipment assessments are offered to ensure people have the best choice of equipment and set up to suit them.


History

Jon Michaelis invented his viscous damped eating aid for people with tremor when he was a final year engineering student at Imperial College in 1986. Partly because of this project, he was awarded the Governors' prize (most outstanding student in final year). The project was supported by Action Research, Chailey Heritage and the Royal Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. Jon Michaelis then founded Michaelis Engineering in order to manufacture the first Neater Eaters in workshops run by the London Innovation Networks of the Greater London Enterprise Board. (The workshops were the brainchild of Mike Cooley who's talk at Imperial College in 1983 had inspired Jon Michaelis to direct his engineering interests in the direction of socially useful products and to set up the Imperial College Student Appropriate Technology Society).

Michaelis Engineering moved to share workshops with the Rehabilitation Engineer at Southampton General Hospital in 1988. Jon Michaelis was invited by consultants there to write a chapter: "Mechanical methods of controlling ataxia" published in Bailliere's Clinical Neurology Vol.2,No.1, April 1993.

Michaelis Engineering became a limited company in 1992 and relocated to Buxton, Derbyshire. Ruth Mallard joined the company in 1994 as Office Manager. In 1998 Neater Solutions Limited was formed to carry on this work still with Jon Michaelis as Managing Director and Ruth Mallard as Operations Manager.

Development of the Neater Eater system continued during this time with different mechanisms and other options to suit people with different needs and abilities. In 1999 an electrically powered option was developed which was awarded status as a Millennium Product by the Design Council.

In 2001 the website www.neater.co.uk was launched.

In 2003 Neater Solutions approached Cambridge University to redesign and manufacture a prototype powered mobile arm support that had been developed in its engineering department - The Neater Arm Support. This is now considered an essential piece of equipment by many therapists working with people with muscular dystrophy.

In 2007 John Foster joined as a full time Neater Consultant. Amongst other things, he carries out individual equipment assessments in northern England and trains overseas distributors.

In 2007 Neater Solutions worked with Samuel Lesley and a team from the University of Brighton led by Dr Anne Mandy to develop a wheelchair for people with hemiplegia. The development was supported by a Health Technology Development Grant from the department of health. The resulting Neater Uni-Chair uses a unique toothed belt differential mechanism and foot steering. It was awarded a 10 out of 10 score from the HTD committee. The Neater Uni-Chair was launched in Düsseldorf in October 2009 at the Rehacare exhibition.

Nearly every user of Neater Solutions' major products has had an individual assessment or trial of the equipment prior to it being supplied - usually involving an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or speech and language therapist. This has been the driving force behind the continuing product development - ensuring equipment is made that properly meets the real needs of people with a wide range of abilities.

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