The Project

A Cheeky Solution to Pressure Sores

Ciara Cahill | 2019 Honours Industrial Design Graduate, UTS

The human body does not react well to constant pressure, however that’s what happens when people spend long periods of time being immobile through injury, incapacity and/or age. The result are pressure sores. It is estimated that 1 in 13 patients in hospitals or care facilities are afflicted with pressure sores at some point during their stay. [2018 NSW Pressure Injury Point Prevalence Survey] It has also been estimated that treatment costs nearly a billion dollars per year nation wide. Pressure sores develop not only from lengthy periods of lying down but also from stagnant sitting, and for those who are wheelchair bound this is a real problem.

Ciara Cahila, a 2019 honours industrial design graduate from the University of Technology Sydney has made wheelchair related pressure sores the challenge for her honours research project.

The result is Cheeky Care. Cheeky Care is a seat designed to aid patients both physically and mentally through a vulnerable stage in their life. Through cross-industry design, each layer’s function and material was specifically chosen and adapted to reduce the risk of pressure sores by eliminating the causing factors; constant pressure, friction, heat and moisture on the skin.


The seat has three layers; a Goretex top layer allows airflow to, and draws moisture away from the user’s skin. The middle layer consists of a lattice structure that creates air channels through the seat to allow warm air to escape quickly, whilst providing the appropriate amount of support to differing areas. The lower layer is a series of neoprene bladders, sensors and air pump. Users have a wireless controller that manages the inflation/deflation of the bladders.

The controller is the most important interface for user interaction. Age demographics of long-term wheelchair users is very broad, however, the majority are aged above 65. [Disability Statistics] When designing for a wide age range the interface needs to be as simple as possible to be effective. Consultations with nurses emphasised the importance of communication with patients and staff and products.

By having a visual map of the seat, the user visually understands the movement of the cushions beneath and reduces their frustration whilst building trust and gain independence. The map represents the adjustable bladders that the user can independently adjust to their preferred level of support.

There are three automatic modes that can be turned on and off with the three separate buttons—and LED lights indicates which mode is currently selected.

The first mode continuously monitors pressure distribution and the areas at risk of developing pressure sores. Activating an air pump inflates/deflates the necessary bladders to achieve even pressure.

The second controls a massaging motion that inflates and deflates the bladders in a random formation, promoting blood flow and constantly relieves pressure.

The third mode parallels the first mode however delays each loop by 10 minutes. This is based on the suggestion of medical staff that patients should shift their position every 10 to 15 minutes.

The intention is that the design be extended to larger surfaces such as hospital beds. However, the goal of this seat is to spark some conversation and inspire new ways of preventing pressure sores.


If you want to contact Ciara about this project, please email her here.

If you have a postgraduate design project (Masters, PhD etc) that you think needs a wider audience read this and get in touch.

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