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“Can I have a go? ” How many times have we heard kids say that to one another? Whether it is the latest computer game, a new football or a prized toy, those words represent acceptance by other children. Despite their wheelchair being their most important possession, those are words no young wheelchair user ever hears their friends say.
Why? Because the design of wheelchairs has moved on little in 30 years, despite some costing anything up to £20,000! Imagine a car at £20k having the same features and designs it had 30 years ago. Imagine how owning one would make you look to others and feel in yourself. Or imagine walking into your office speaking into a mobile phone that had the same features as one from the year before the Millennium! You’d be laughed out of the office!
That’s why Whizz-Kidz joined up with Duchenne UK and the University of Edinburgh to launch the Wheels of Change project – to build a prototype wheelchair that will shake up the market, force the issue of design and functionality of young people's powered wheelchairs and get a chair on the market that is affordable, modular and cool. A chair young people will be proud of and their friends want to have a go on!
We have had a number of young wheelchair users around our office recently. One of them was Jackie - a performer who wants to be epic on stages all over the world. For her, the right wheelchair needs to reflect her and keep up with her lifestyle.
She was frustrated by how long it took to get a wheelchair that suited her lifestyle through the NHS – but that all changed when she received her first powered wheelchair from Whizz-Kidz as a child. However, now as she has started to think about it, she wants more – she wants a chair that is truly cutting edge and that links with the world around her. That’s why she began joining us to work towards our Hack this week when Somo will ideate around what the future holds for next generation of wheelchairs.
“When I first found about the Somo Hackathon, I was a bit confused. When I thought of Hackathon, I imagined people gathered around computer screens trying to hack websites illegally. But when I found out more information about the Somo Hackathon I became really excited.
Advanced wheelchair batteries could mean less worry about the battery dying when I am out and about. I could be more spontaneous. Technology really has the potential to take away some of the worry from everyday life. It has been fantastic to be a part of Wheels of Change and the Hackathon so far. You can really tell that everyone from Somo is putting their all into this and thinking outside of the box, which is something I often have to do as a young wheelchair user.
When it comes to wheelchairs, technology has been stagnant for quite a while. But I have hope that over the next few years there will be a change.”
We know the right wheelchair can make all the difference to independence and life chances. But we are aiming for a day when instead of making young wheelchair users stand out because of how medicalised the chair looks and feels, they stand out because it’s cool, trendy and a source of pride.
Thank you, Somo, for all you have done so far – you might like to also hear from some of the young wheelchair users who have been working on the project already across the country. If so, watch the video below:
We’re thrilled to share Somo is organising a Hack Day for Whizz-Kidz – an inspiring charity that provides disabled children with the essential wheelchairs and other mobility equipment they need to lead fun and active childhoods.
Whizz-Kidz dreams big. They have a vision to build the wheelchair of the future and overcome the lack of innovation in the sector, and we’re delighted to be a part of their fantastic 'Wheels of Change' initiative by bringing our digital expertise to the project.
Find out more about who they are and how they make the world a better place: www.whizz-kidz.org.uk