Published 14-Dec 2018

We partnered with Whizz-Kidz and the University of Edinburgh to win £1 million from the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund to develop a dream chair for wheelchair users.

An update from Whizz-Kidz on the project:

Imagine asking a friend to borrow their phone, and being handed a carphone (remember them?), or asking if you had a spare Betamax tape as they want to record Eastenders.  You would wonder what generation they lived in! Although both would work and could do the job, they wouldn’t do much more than the absolute basics and you would form an opinion of the friend based on how out of date they were.

Yet, every day of the year we see exactly that with the powered wheelchairs that so many young people depend on. Few of the powered chairs available do much more than the basics and almost none attempt to link to the modern technology that has transformed so much of the rest of the world we live in. Powered chairs are heavy, cumbersome and have often not been designed with the needs and aspirations of young wheelchairs front and centre.

That is why Duchenne UK, Whizz-Kidz and the University of Edinburgh got together and appealed to The People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL) earlier this year to help us look at what could be possible if we designed a wheelchair that met not just the clinical needs of young wheelchair users, but their aspirations and dreams as well. PPL’s Dream Fund agreed to fund the research and develop a prototype and donated £1,000,000 to make it happen.

Duchenne UK and Whizz-Kidz are in daily contact with hundreds of young wheelchair users across the UK and the University of Edinburgh leads the way bringing technology, design and research together to solve big problems.

By the end of 2020 we aim to have built a prototype wheelchair which will show what is possible and hopefully encourage others in the market to up their game. We want to push forward the design & functionality of young people's powered wheelchairs & show that a chair could be brought to the market that is affordable, modern, modular & cool. A chair young people will be proud of and that will make their mates say "can I have a go.”

We know that such a chair sounds like a dream at the moment. But the iPhone, electric cars and even driverless cars started off as a dream. Yoko Ono once said that a dream is only a dream when you dream alone – that’s why so many of us have got together to try and make it a reality.

Already we have had two Innovation Hubs bringing young wheelchair users, engineers, clinicians, business people and academics together to look at what is possible. We have also produced a horizon scanning report looking at what is out there at the moment and what is being developed and we have held a workshop looking at how we could integrate Artificial Intelligence and iCloud technology into the everyday use of a wheelchair. It’s all very exciting and shortly the University will start the research and design working alongside young wheelchair users.

Watch this space!

One of Duchenne UK’s own ambassadors featured in our video to PPL which helped secure the grant:

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If you have ay questions about this project, or any of our other projects, please email [email protected]