It was during a university class project in 2018 that Lianna Genovese came up with the idea for Guided Hands™, a mechanical device that helps people with limited hand mobility to reignite lost passions like painting.
“We were introduced to a woman named Elissa who lives with a rare type of cerebral palsy,” recalls Genovese, then a student of biomedical and mechanical engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
“Elissa was a talented painter but as her condition progressed, she wasn’t even able to hold onto a paintbrush. I wanted to give her back her passion for painting, and her independence.”
Genovese made the first prototype of Guided Hands out of pipe cleaners, straws, a ball of yarn and a sponge. “I included Elissa throughout the design process. She used it – and it worked for her,” says Genovese.
From engineering student to businesswoman
A year later, at 19, Genovese founded her own startup, ImaginAble Solutions, with the goal of developing and bringing Guided Hands to market.
Today, Guided Hands is an international award-winning product that enables anyone experiencing limited hand mobility to write, paint, draw and access technology through touch screen devices. It has a unique sliding system that promotes controlled and guided hand
movements as a user holds a hand piece tailored to their level of hand impairment.
Guided Hands has been tested by more than 350 physicians, occupational therapists, neurologists and people living with limited hand mobility across North America, including those with arthritis, ALS, Huntington’s disease and recovering from spinal cord injuries and stroke.
Bea Kraayenhof, who has Essential Tremor, says Guided Hands “gives you confidence” and is easy to use. “I could just put my hand in, strap in and start,” says Kraayenhof. “Guided Hands, I feel, is something that every person who has hand problems really should have.”
Genovese, now graduated from university, says AGE-WELL’s support has been invaluable. “AGE-WELL connected us with mentors, advisors and a whole bunch of different resources.” She adds: “They also helped us secure funding for manufacturing to introduce Guided Hands to individuals and healthcare facilities across North America.”
ImaginAble Solutions won the runner-up prize in the 2021 AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge, receiving a cash prize of $10,000 and an intellectual property services prize from
Bereskin & Parr.
Six months later, ImaginAble Solutions won the People’s Choice Award at the Arthritis Society Canada Innovation Awards.
“Our overarching goal is to improve the quality of life of our customers, helping them to reignite their lost passions and stimulate their brains, and helping them regain their confidence and creativity – which end up contributing to their overall improved quality of life,” says Genovese.
“Every part of my journey has just been amazing and inspiring, especially seeing the smiles on our customer’s faces. It really inspires us to just keep on going and strive toward making an impact in millions of lives.”