#TechTuesdays

The Ramble Tag Guidance Aid

Meet the inventor: a Q&A with Laura Maclean, one half of the Ramble Tag team.

by Carolyn Scott | 26th February 2019

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"

This quote, often (perhaps wrongly) attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, was used as an early slogan at Apple Computer in the late 1970s and, regardless of its origins, is perfectly realised by this week’s Tech Tuesday feature: The Ramble Tag.

The Ramble Tag is a wonderfully simple guidance aid invented for vision impaired people. It's a lightweight harness designed to be worn on the upper arm by a guide that allows a person with sight loss to hold on to a small tag attached to the harness rather than holding on to the guide’s arm.

Five ramble tag products in different colours. An arm band with a look attached. Invented in Glasgow by two neighbours, Tom Forsyth and Laura Maclean, the Ramble Tag was initially developed using a knee brace and a holdall handle to help the pair walk their dogs more comfortably and naturally, with Laura regularly guiding Tom who has a vision impairment.

As Laura explains on the Ramble Tag Kickstarter page: “We both have fairly large dogs which we - with me as the guide - often walk together.  Several times we lost continuity and personal contact. On one of these occasions I commented that he needed something to hold on to, and Tom replied “a wee handle!”

“We immediately realised how easy it would be to retain contact this way. This kernel sparked the concept and design of The Ramble Tag.”

From humble beginnings, through a lot of hard work, many late nights, several prototypes and bucket loads of enthusiasm and dedication, Laura and Tom found a manufacturer for their product in the UK and launched the Ramble Tag in 2018.

two people smiling with two large dogs and signs reading "ramble tag"

Since then the product has taken off (literally!). It is now used by staff at majorinternational airports across the UK and has expanded into a range of colours available to purchase online. You can read Tom and Laura’s story in full on their Kickstarter page.

We caught up with Laura to find out about the ups and downs, challenges and successes of developing and manufacturing the Ramble Tag.

Carolyn:

When you put together your first idea, from a knee brace and holdall handle, did you ever think that you'd go on to develop a product that would be used in major international airports and travel hubs?

Laura:

No, but we definitely knew we’d develop it into a finished product.  Initially we created this to solve an immediate problem that we encountered while walking our dogs together and thought maybe it could do the same for others in their daily lives, enjoying the outdoors, shopping, etc.  Then Glasgow Airport approached us after our successful Kickstarter campaign and we recognised how it could improve public assistance.

Carolyn:

It must have been exceptionally daunting to make that initial decision to invest your savings and embark on creating a new business, and while your videos show such enthusiasm, friendship and happiness, I imagine in the early days there were a lot of late nights and anxious moments. Did you ever doubt that the Ramble Tag would be a success?

Laura:

We were neighbours getting a bank account together - we had to be a little nervous! I don't think either of us ever entertained the idea of failing and we both trusted each other’s commitment. We've worked very hard, day, night and weekends but we love it. We've been very sensible with spending and very lucky with publicity. When various media channels started to show interest this fed our motivation. All anyone could say is: "Why has no one thought of this before!?".  

We seem to have a way of working through challenges and I make Tom give me high fives and fisty bumps after any stressful moments (which we always find amusing). We're like family now.

Carolyn:

You both have a background in art. Because of this did you know the process you would have to go through with regards finding manufacturers? How complex was this process?

Laura:

We didn't have a clue!  Finding a manufacturer within the UK was the hardest part of the process. It took a lot of trial and error with several failed samples.  

I made our best and final prototype from using the handle of a dog lead, and finding a manufacturer that could match our design specifications including strength and quality at a price that worked was difficult.

We searched for safety gear manufacturers initially but eventually discovered one that specialised in custom harnesses. They exceeded our expectations in many ways, and shared our passion, having had a personal experience of blindness in their family.

Carolyn:

Going from the initial design idea to where you are now, what's been the biggest challenge?

Laura:

We both joke "each other!!" but without a doubt, the manufacturer hunt was the biggest challenge.  

Carolyn:

What, to you, has been your biggest success to date?

Laura:

We've had so many moments of feeling proud, it's really hard to pinpoint one.  

On a development level, it was receiving our first perfect sample from our manufacturer and feeling what a great hurdle we’d finally overcome.  

On a personal level, it was getting a lovely message from a lady on Christmas day, saying how she and her son (who has brain damage with visual impairments) loved the Ramble Tag. She sent us a picture of them out with their Christmas jumpers wearing the Tag, happy that her shoulder no longer hurts and he finds it so much fun.

On a business level, just seeing it in use in major airports (starting with Glasgow!) and railway stations has been amazing.

Carolyn:

What next? Do you have any plans to become serial innovators and inventors? Are you going to try to take the Ramble Tag global? Dragons Den?

Laura:

Tom and I have active imaginations. We're always bubbling with ideas but we are solely focused on this at the moment. We want to go global: we've already sold to America, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Norway and more. We want every visually impaired person to know these are an option, so there’s plenty of work to do. I guess you just have to stay tuned to see what's next, we don't always know ourselves!


The Ramble Tag has received rave reviews from users: it can remove any awkwardness usually associated with sighted guiding giving more confidence to those perhaps not used to being a guide. It gives the person with a vision impairment the freedom to move their own way and proves that sometimes the best tech is the simplest.

Find out more at www.rambletag.co.uk

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