TEDxDelft 2015 | Mileha Soneji | Empathy is the Key to Great Innovation


Mileha had an uncle who used to always have games for the children.  She remembers that “used to be there, jumping around with us kids, making us have the time of our lives…but then I saw healthy and hardy person deteriorate. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.” Parkinson’s is a disease that causes degeneration of the nervous system that makes a once-independent person start to find every-day tasks (like drinking coffee and walking) more difficult.  Her uncle, who used to be the center of attention, was soon hiding behind people.

Mileha, a product designer, Masters Student at TU Delft and winner of this year’s TEDxDelft award, decided she wanted to help her uncle. Her goal was not to cure Parkinson’s, but instead to make the everyday tasks of those living with Parkinson’s much easier.

She first looked at helping her uncle with his tremors and drinking.  She designed a no-spill cup to aid in this process. One day, she questioned how her uncle walked up and down the stairs.  Surprisingly, he was able to do this without any problem, but as soon as he stopped, he had trouble walking again.  She decided to apply a “staircase illusion” to the floor by having the illusion of a staircase flowing throughout her uncle’s house.  To her surprise, this simple solution was able to help her uncle move around the house faster and easier.

Still working on her goal of helping those with Parkinson’s live easier lives, she advocates the idea of “a humand-centered solution.”  Technology might not always be the immediate answer, but perhaps a small, simple solutions can have a large impact.