This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

TOM 2016: 'Life Changing' Disability Forum Headed Down Under

The global knowledge-sharing event will hit Melbourne in November.
Stacey Christie is excited about taking part in TOM in Melbourne.
Supplied/Julia Gumbleton
Stacey Christie is excited about taking part in TOM in Melbourne.

Most of us don't give much thought to how we access restaurants, shops or bars.

But for Stacey Christie, getting to where she wants to go can be really tough.

The 23-year-old, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, says she's often stymied from accessing places she'd like to visit just because she uses a wheelchair.

And in many cases, it's simple things like a few steps, or going from the road to the pavement, that can stop the social media professional in her tracks.

"A problem that I've always faced is not being able to get up stairs or curbs where there's no ramp," she tells The Huffington Post Australia. "I feel it's something that people don't think about unless they're in a wheelchair, but it's a really big obstacle to overcome."

But this could all be about to change, with Christie set to take part in Australia's first Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) Makeathon -- an event that seeks to transform the lives of disabled people worldwide.

For Christie, her involvement in the not-for-profit project will see her work with Swinburne University engineers on a smart wheelchair capable of navigating uneven terrain.

The Melbourne resident says, if successful, the device will be a life-changer.

"I've seen a couple of videos of wheelchairs that can go up stairs online but they're always in America and hundreds of thousands of dollars, definitely not in my price range," Christie says.

"So this would be life-changing, it really would be. I love travelling and I'm off to Europe next year but I'm told the accessibility there is challenging for someone in a wheelchair ... so this is amazing timing."

The challenge Christie submitted to the Makeathon is one of many projects bringing together engineers, designers, coders and people living with disabilities in Melbourne on November 28.

At the event, hosted at Swinburne University, teams get 72 hours to work on their brief, with all plans and prototypes created then becoming freely available online.

The event's collaborative model is especially useful in finding solutions where the market, as in Christie's case, has failed, TOM's Michal Kabatznik says.

"Addressing areas where market forces fail, or the existing solutions are unaffordable, will help ensure Makers and Need-knowers realise their vision," Kabatznik adds.

"Makers understand the challenge and then work collaboratively with their need-knower to provide a real life solution."

Christie, meanwhile, is just amped about getting stuck into the project with her team.

"I'm really really excited to see what they come up with," she says.

"I don't know how else I would have overcome this without them, so it's amazing."

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