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Brittany Platt’s booth at the RESNA conference in New Orleans, LA.

Brittany Platt’s booth at the RESNA conference in New Orleans, LA.

My name is Brittany Platt and I have a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Pitt Greensburg. I am from Glenshaw just north of Pittsburgh. I decided to complete Pitt’s Master of Rehabilitation Technology (MRT) program because I’ve had epilepsy since I was 8 years old and multiple surgeries to remove a part of my left temporal lobe. The final surgery resulted in a brain infection that required me to be in rehab for over 20 days during my senior year of college. I enrolled in the MRT program to help other people who have disabilities live their best lives possible.  

Finding a Need 

I became interested in creating the “Just Roll On It” technology because our class instructor, Todd Hargroder, is a man with quadriplegia and assistive technology user who could not open his household trash can from his wheelchair without ramming into it. His wheelchair ended up causing damage to the trash can as he tried to get close to it. He has limited hand mobility, so a motion activated lid was not the best option because he would not be able to change the batteries, and it would not stay open long enough to put his garbage inside. 

Offering a Solution 

The project was named Just Roll On It because a person in a wheelchair can just roll on the ramp I designed to open a trash can. Just Roll On It came to be after six different ideas and prototypes. A question arose about caster wheel size because Mr. Hargroder’s castor wheel size was four inches high and the manual wheelchairs in our lab are six to seven inches high. How could this design work for all wheelchair users? 

For this project, Mr. Hargroder became my client. He and Professor David Brienza would give me feedback along the way. We all agreed that the research question should be, “Will a ramp extension attached to an existing trash receptacle allow the lid to be opened by persons in wheelchairs with different caster sizes from various angles?” 

Mr. Hargroder gave me feedback about what he wanted in order to easily open the trash can: to be able to roll onto the opener from any angle and have it open and stay open. I built Just Roll On It out of 16-gauge sheet metal, and at the same time, Mr. Hargroder made a prototype at his house from ABS plastic with the same trash can model to offer an alternative material. The ABS plastic pedal worked; however, it would not hold the right shape, so we decided that the sheet metal would be the best option for the device.  

Testing the Just Roll On It in the MRT lab at Bakery Square 

What is unique about Just Roll On It is that it is a pedal extension for the trash can opening mechanism, which allows the client to use the casters of his wheelchair to open the trash can. Just Roll On It works with any size caster. To allow the can to open from any angle, there are hinges welded to pieces of sheet metal attaching them to the center piece of Just Roll On It. An additional advantage is that it can be used not just for somebody in a wheelchair, but other people with or without disabilities. 

Future Plans 

I presented Just Roll On It during the student design competition at the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) conference. It did generate some interest from participants and Mr. Hargroder does have the device in use at his home. While the device is not being designed for commercial use, the process of designing it gave me an opportunity to gain first-hand experience working with a client, the development of a prototype, testing of a prototype and revision of the design to best meet the needs of the client, all while working remotely in the online MRT program. Having the ability to present this to a national audience and to receive their feedback will serve me well in my future.  

I plan to graduate in April 2024, earn my assistive technology professional (ATP) certification and seek employment as an ATP either with the VA Health System or the UPMC Center for Assistive Technology.  

The MRT program is providing me with the knowledge, skills and abilities that will allow me to be employable as an assistive technology professional. It is an excellent combination of classroom and hands on experiences, including the opportunity to present nationally that has allowed me to grow. 


Written by:  Brittany Platt (MRT ‘24) 

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