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Disability proves to be the mother of invention

Feb 28

Written by:
28 February 2018 15:11  RssIcon

A retired engineer has turned adversity into a potentially lucrative business by developing a dressing aid to help people with disabilities do one of the simplest of tasks.

Ray Bell, originally from Langley Park, in County Durham, was living on a narrowboat in Uxbridge, on the outskirts of London, when he suffered a back injury, which put him out of action, and eventually led to a hip replacement operation.

Following his release from hospital, and unable to get his socks on due to an inability to bend and reach his toes, he went looking for something to help, but was unable to find anything suitable in the shops to help.

But rather than be defeated, Ray, 77, set about developing a solution, using pieces of PVC guttering.

“I went into my local Wickes and bought a couple of pieces of black PVC guttering. Using a blow lamp, I heated the guttering and bent it into shape. I then used some more plastic to create a long handle, which enabled me to put on my socks and compression stockings from a seated position.”

He fashioned a device approximately 2’6’’ long, with a shoe horn on the end of a handle, which proved perfect working from a seated position. It was used for a few weeks until the back problem resolved itself, then it was put in a drawer and forgotten about.

On his return to the North-East, to Langley Street, in Langley Park, in County Durham, the back problems reared up again, this time leading to a total hip replacement.

On his release from hospital, following the surgery, and again facing similar problems, Ray retrieved the device from the back of the drawer, and with another device he developed to assist him put on underwear and trousers, he was able to get dressed by himself, and was therefore totally independent.

When other people started showing an interest in his home-made dressing aid, Ray realised there might be a market for it.

He invested £20,000 in having the tooling developed, and made, to manufacture an initial 1,000 of what he has since called the ‘SoXonoff’.

He said: “SoXonoff is made from a light, durable, hard wearing poly propylene plastic that is flexible, whilst having enough rigidity to give the user the control required for an appliance of this length.”

With the help of a web designer, he created a website to start selling the product to the public. The website includes an online shop, plus helpful videos showing the product in action.

Community and district nurses have shown interest in using the product with their patients and clients, and now Ray is hoping to develop links with the NHS, and organisations that help the elderly, and people with mobility issues.

Ray has developed a shorter, cut-down version of the device, which can be used by carers and nurses to help their clients and patients put on their socks and compression stockings.

For more information about SoXonoff, including videos of how it works, go to www.soxonoff.co.uk.

Ray Bell can be contacted on 07771785469, or email