Wednesday 11 Jan 2017 07:00

Design awards for ingenious inventions

Glasses for computer users who don’t have the use of their arms, and a wheelchair that goes up and down steps, are just two of the entries shortlisted to find the next rising star of design.

The Blackwood Design Awards discover, and champion, new and innovative ideas which aim to improve standards of living for those with physical or mental disabilities.

Dozens of entries were received for the competition and the nine inventions on the shortlist have now been revealed, with a blink-controlled, hands free phone system and a body-temperature regulating cushion for wheelchair users making up the finalists.

The nine competing entries are:

Best New Product

1)    C-Brace – A brace for people who have either a weakness in the knee or an injury that impairs their ability to stand/walk independently. It is relatively discreet and could make the difference between being confined to a wheelchair/mobility scooter and being able to remain upright and walking.

2)    FRIEASEL – A manoeuvrable canvas that can be adjusted so someone with severe disabilities can paint independently, which could have hugely therapeutic benefits.

3)    Drink Universal Holder – A product that is fixed to a person’s wheelchair and can fit nearly any kind of glass.

4)    Glassouse – A set of light-weight glasses that are suitable for computer users who do not have the use of their arms. It remotely links to the computer and the mouth piece serves as a mouse. Biting down on it acts as a click.

Best New Concept

1)    Argonault – A versatile concept wheelchair that can go up and down steps and pavement edges as well as go up to cupboards.

2)    MeBot – Similar in some respects to the Argonault in that it is a wheelchair that can go up and down steps, but a different design by a different company.

3)    RT-Movers – A really smart wheelchair that can also go up and down steps. It differs from the others is that it has great stability and suspension and the mechanism of the wheels make it really good for going over uneven or bumpy terrain.

4)    Wheelair – A temperature regulating cushion for people whose body doesn’t communicate well with their brain and causes difficulty getting their body temperature right.

5)    Eye-wink – A system to control a phone without hands, which uses winks to go back and forth in the options. Very useful for anyone who has limited hand movement or poor dexterity in their fingers.

The winner will receive a cash prize of £2,000 from sponsor Kingdom Gas, and invaluable backing from Blackwood to make their creative design into a working reality.

Last year’s winner, Grant Douglas, was delighted to see his S’up Spoon product – an unspillable spoon to aid those with shaky hands as a result of cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s – take home the coveted prize.

He said: “We entered Blackwood’s Design Awards last year as we share its aim to enable disabled people to live as independently as possible through designing accessible products in a way that is pleasing to the eye.

“Over the past 9 months, the S’up Spoon has been featured on BBC One’s Songs of Praise. We’ve also donated 10 spoons to a voluntary organisation that helps disabled people in South Africa and it now has packaging so it can be sold in shops and is currently on sale via Amazon.

“Take it from us – it truly is an incredible opportunity.”

Colin Foskett, head of innovation at Blackwood, believes the competition is a perfect example of the Blackwood ethos and says this year’s move to two categories will double the chances to identify and champion breakthroughs that improve life for those with disabilities.

He said: “We’ve been delighted with the way the annual awards have caught the imagination and developed into an important way to bring through genuinely revolutionary products.

“By having the additional category for this year’s competition, we are aiming to support, and promote even more new design talent. Some of the products we have previously seen have benefited the lives of so many people and the designs by this year’s nine shortlisted finalists are no different.”

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