Tom Baker, a third year Product Design student at Sheffield Hallam University, designed the universal wheelchair buggy with a lightweight collapsible frame, offering wheelchair users independent and secure travel with young children.
The Design the Change competition is run by leading injury law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp to raise awareness of the day-to-day challenges facing people with spinal cord injuries and how innovative designs can make a real difference.
When researching the idea, Tom realised that many wheelchair users rig up their own DIY contraptions to push conventional pushchairs. His research revealed there are around 4,000 UK parents living with a spinal cord injury, and many more parents who are wheelchair users that could benefit from his design.
Tom said: “I’m delighted that my project to enable individuals with a spinal cord injury to travel with an infant safely and independently, has been recognised with this award and thank all those involved in supporting me and this inspiring initiative.
“During my research for this project, I learnt that the work which Cerebra and The Spinal Injuries Association do is crucial in making the world a more accessible place for those who have suffered a spinal cord injury. I’d like to thank Bolt Burdon Kemp for setting the design challenge and endorsing.
“The support I received from the Product Design Department at Sheffield Hallam University was exceptional and I’m pleased that they will share the prize with me.”
Tom wins £3,000, with an additional £2,000 being awarded to Sheffield Hallam University.
Design the Change is also supported by Bolt Burdon Kemp’s charity partner Cerebra which works to improve the lives of children with neurological conditions. As part of his prize, Tom will have a week’s placement at the centre in Wales next year.
Victoria Oliver, head of the spinal injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “The standard of entries this year was so high, but Tom’s wheelchair buggy really blew the judges away. Through careful research and speaking to a wide range of people, Tom was able to identify the issues facing parents with a spinal cord injury and come up with a genuinely innovative and useful product which could benefit many.
“A spinal cord injury is a life changing event that makes even the most mundane of tasks time-consuming and a challenge. Yet despite the increasing number of people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK, not enough is being done to make the world in which we all live accessible.”
Andrew Marsh, course leader of BSc Product Design at Sheffield Hallam, said: “Tom engaged with a wide range of experts and potential product users to gain valuable insights into the realities of being a parent with a spinal cord injury. His buggy proposal is both highly innovative and commercially viable.
“By utilising existing baby seats, he has managed to develop an affordable and user-friendly way for wheelchair users to travel with their children, where it may have otherwise been prohibitively difficult or unsafe.
“Bolt Burdon Kemp’s Design the Change competition really encourages design students to look more closely at accessibility and adaptive design, which they will take into their future careers, contributing to a more inclusive society.”
Tom’s design was judged by a panel of experts: Dr Ross Head, Product Design Manager for the Cerebra Innovation Centre, Ian Hosking, club chairman, vice coach and player for Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair rugby club, Davey Jose, Ambassador to the charity Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research, Lady-Marie Dawson-Malcolm, Support Network Officer for the Spinal Injuries Association and Claire Martin, Trustee for the Spinal Injuries Association.