Children with disabilities and their carers have been given the opportunity to take part in a Dragons’ Den style workshop with leading designers at an event arranged by Devices for Dignity (D4D) Healthcare Technology Cooperative – which is hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The aim of the workshop, which was run in conjunction with Frazer-Nash Consultancy (Systems and Engineering Technology Consultancy), was to give children and carers the chance to talk about the problems that affect their daily lives and highlighting how these are not currently addressed by existing technologies.
Held in London, in conjunction with children’s charity Whizz-Kidz, four designs were presented to the group, with the aim of the choosing one overall concept that caters for all their needs and provides care, quality of life and independence for thousands of children across the UK, including children with severe disabilities and wider groups.
The overall aim of the project is to design a chair that allows children to confidently leave hospital environments and be able to get out and about safely, confidently and more independently. Whilst the designs incorporate the most complex equipment needs such as catering for ventilators and oxygen cylinders, they also have a wider generic appeal as well.
Another feature of the designs was its ability to adapt with the changing size of a child; encompassing a range of frames and seat options that accommodate growing children.
Over the last year the team have worked closely with paediatric consultants from Great Ormond Street Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital, occupational therapists, engineers and clinical scientists to design a new transport system that caters for the children’s everyday needs.
D4D and Frazer-Nash Consultancy commissioned a series of on-line surveys, user and carer focus groups to find out exactly what it is needed and how this can be in incorporated into the new designs – these were hosted by Whizz-Kidz, providing a national platform for input.
Wheelchair user Leanna Horne said: “People don’t usually ask us what we want and need but by working together we can ensure children in the future get better wheelchairs than the ones I had when I was growing up. There isn’t a clinical need for wheelchairs to be fashionable but as you get older you want to make sure you fit into society and that your disability isn’t any more obvious than it needs to be. If you have a slim line chair with character, it’s easier to get around and makes you feel more integrated into society.”
Parent, Helen Spear whose daughter Amber was at the event, commented: “One of the main problems we have is transporting our daughter’s powered wheelchair because it is so heavy. It is 12 and half stone and it takes both me and my husband to lift it into the back of a car. This makes going on school trips or away with friends very difficult. Anything that can improve the lives of children and their carers is a positive move.”
The children and parents used images of key features to create a collage of their ideal wheelchairs, these and their feedback will be used alongside data from clinicians to produce a final design scheme , anticipated to be in October 2010, with the view to start the development of the first prototypes in the autumn.
8 year old Amber added: “I have millions of ideas, which are all important such as adding lights and reflectors and making wheelchairs more colourful. I hope that some of my ideas are used.”