Oxfordshire-based Williams Advanced Engineering
(WAE) has been retained by Whizz-Kidz
to refine the ‘Dream’ wheelchair concept, which has been designed by children for young wheelchair users, showcasing the way in which technology and design can help overcome the daily challenges they face.
In 2017, the charities Whizz-Kidz and Duchenne UK
came together, with the help of academics at Edinburgh University and an award of £1 million from the People’s Postcode Lottery’s ‘Dream Fund’, to design a chair that would not just meet medical needs but harness technology and design to meet a young person’s ‘dreams and aspirations’.
Following a workshop at the Innovation Hub in London in 2018, a shortlist of 72 recommendations was put forward, all of which would address the everyday challenges faced by young wheelchair users. The project team enlisted experts from Curtiss Wright, Somo Global and Aergo to work with Frazer-Nash Consultancy and Edinburgh University to turn the project from a dream into a reality. The Dream wheelchair prototype was successfully launched in December 2020.
The success of the prototype has enabled further funding to be secured from Duchenne UK and Motability Operations, to examine the feasibility of bringing the chair to market, and a range of design and engineering reviews have been commissioned.
WAE will now use its experience in product design to further improve the wheelchair. Improvements will include a ‘twist and smart features seat’ and a kerb climb ability, while also ensuring the seat can support a modular construction.
Using its knowledge of the healthcare industry, gained through a series of high-profile projects such as Babypod (a lightweight incubator for the transportation of critically ill children) and a Paralympic handbike, WAE will ensure the individual needs of the user are central to both the design and manufacture of the wheelchairs.
Paul McNamara, WAE’s technical director, said: “We are delighted to be part of this project and welcome the opportunity to contribute to a programme that will be making a genuine difference to people’s lives. Our experience with past projects has shown us the importance of prioritising the needs of the individual and we look forward to delivering some new and innovative design ideas.”