Designer Saw Robe Changes Were Due
You try sitting in a wheelchair and putting on a bathrobe!” retorted Barbara Arnold when the U.S. Patent Officer laughed at her initial patent application. But Arnold was undaunted by this response. She used her innate zeal and tenacity to earn the patents for her uniquely designed Handi-Robe and Change-A-Robe.
It all started with a horrible car accident. A semi truck pulled in front of Arnold’s tiny Miata on the freeway. She slammed on her brakes, but could not help skidding right into the truck at 55 mph. She ended up with a shattered ankle, a rebuilt shoulder, whiplash and injuries from the seatbelts.
Once she was back home and in a wheelchair, dressing and undressing were almost impoossible. She couldn’t even wear her favorite bathrobe. Out of desperation, she wore her robe backwards, but realized that if she moved at all or tried to reach for things, the robe strangled her. If she placed a magazine or hairbrush on her lap, it would slide to the floor. And if she reached down to pick up a dropped item, she was in danger of falling out of the chair.
Arnold realized that the lack of a proper garment was not just about comfort. It was a safety issue.
Having already designed her Change-A-Robe for swimmers (it’s a poncho-style robe that lets you change clotehes anytime, anywhere), she created one that would work for wheelchair users. She then used her settlement money from the car accident to start her own company.
The Handi-Robe is designed for those who are physically challenged, disabled or using a walker or wheelchair. It allows individuals with poor lower body mobility to put on or remove the robe without having to stand or wiggle around in precarious positions.
“The robe is not just a convenience or something to keep warm,” Arnold said. “It is a protective device that can drastically reduce several different types of safety and medical issues.”
The robe also benefits caregivers, since it allows caregivers to dress the wheelchair-bound without lifting them, a task that could cause back injuries. It’s also considered durable medical equipment, so it’s reimbursable by Medicare and Medi-Cal. The robe includes a zippered inside pocket for small items such as a comb and mirror, or illness-necessitated hygiene items.