Oxfordshire-based technology and engineering company Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) has been retained by child-mobility charity Whizz-Kidz to refine the DREAM wheelchair concept. Designed by children, the DREAM chair is aimed at showcasing the way in which technology and design can help to overcome the daily challenges that younger wheelchair users face.
In 2017, Whizz-Kidz joined forces with muscular dystrophy charity Duchenne UK and academics from the University of Edinburgh to design a wheelchair that would not only meet medical needs but also harness technology and design to meet a young person’s dreams and aspirations. The project was supported by a £1million grant from the People’s Postcode Lottery’s Dream Fund.
A workshop at the Innovation Hub in London, carried out in 2018, resulted in the creation of a shortlist of 72 recommendations aimed at addressing the everyday challenges faced by young wheelchair users. The project team then enlisted experts from Curtiss Wright, Somo Global and Aergo to work with the Frazer-Nash Consultancy and the University of Edinburgh to turn the project from a dream into a reality, and in December 2020, the DREAM wheelchair prototype was successfully launched.
The protype’s success enabled further funding to be secured from Duchenne UK and Motability Operations to examine the feasibility of bringing the chair to market, leading to the commissioning of a range of design and engineering reviews.
WAE, which has experience of working in 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, will ensure that user needs are central to both the design and manufacture of the wheelchairs. The company will use its experience in product design to further improve the wheelchair, adding features such as kerb-climbing ability.WAE will also use its capabilities in supply chain management to provide recommendations on procurement and manufacturability in order to further aid the development of the wheelchair.
‘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,’ said Paul McNamara, technical director at Williams Advanced Engineering. ‘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.’