Meet Designability: the Bath-based company who define ‘tech for good’
Bath-based Designability is an ultra-altruistic tech charity. Its employees dedicate their time to creating and researching assistive technologies with the aim of transforming the lives of people living with a disability.
We caught up with Marketing and Fundraising Officer Fiona Cromwell to chat about all the wonderful things Designability is up to. “We listen to people’s unmet needs and work to create a solution,” explains Fiona. “We are experts in human-centred design and our work helps all ages; from very young children using a Wizzybug, right through to elderly people who are living with dementia.”
“It was the first bit of equipment that allowed our girls to play together without me having to be as hands on”
The Wizzybug (pictured left), is a charming mobility chair which is built on-site using only locally sourced components, which has already been a huge hit. The chair is designed with children under the age of 5 in mind; those as young as 14 months can operate the easy control system.
Wizzybug empowers the children. Rather than depending on their parents to guide their wheelchairs, with Wizzybug they can navigate themselves.
It may seem like a small liberty, but the ability to play with friends or move about their house alone can make a big difference to a child’s lifestyles.
Designability designer: See Jessica Ridgers’ inspiring [email protected] speech
“Designing Wizzybug was not a quick process,” Fiona tells us. “In order to ensure it met specific needs, we had to keep consulting those with the required expertise and several families helped us to road test the very first version – Wizzybugs – which helped to inform the Wizzybug we know and love today.”
Designability shares the moving story of Gracie with us, a little girl who has been diagnosed with diplegic Cerebral Palsy (CP). Her dad says how life changing Wizzybug has been for the whole family: “It was the first bit of equipment that allowed our girls to play together without me having to be as hands on.”
“I knew I wanted to bridge that gap between insights from people in healthcare and design solution”
He goes on to say, “Thanks to Wizzybug, Gracie is learning more and more about what she is capable of. It is such an amazing piece of equipment!”
Designability wants all children under 5 with a mobility disability to have access to Wizzybug, however, there is generally no NHS funding for this group. It would be easy to exploit this, but Designability works relentlessly to fundraise so that families don’t have to fork out for this unique wheelchair.
The care and commitment to the cause is truly admirable: “We started to fundraise to be able to provide them free of charge through a UK loan scheme as we believe our Wizzybugs are one of the best ways for children to experience their first taste of independence.” In fact, Designability is so inspiring that Marcus Whittington from Bath Boutique Stays is braving the Bath Half Marathon soon to raise money for the people Designability company helps, as is Jessica Ridgers who works for the charity – and you can donate to Marcus’ cause here and Jess’ cause here!
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If you think a Wizzybug could help your child, Fiona urges you to get in touch for a consultation: “Contact our Wizzybug occupational therapy team on 01225 824103 or [email protected].” Designability will then tailor the Wizzybug to suit the specific needs of your little girl or boy, providing that the funding is available.
We also spoke to designer Jessica Ridgers about why she loves working for Designability. “I knew I wanted to bridge that gap between insights from people in healthcare and design solutions,” Jess explains, “so after university, I tried to find work around healthcare and assistive technology. I grew up in Bath, so I came back and found Designability. They just really fit the bill for me, they do the kind of thing that I love.”
Designability have a myriad of projects currently ongoing – and they’re calling for the help of some Bristolians. “We recently joined an exciting new project called Flourish (led by Atkins) which will seek to develop driverless cars to enhance independence for older people. Our role as a charity is to involve older people in the design and function of the interface for the driverless cars.
“We are currently looking for people aged 50 and over in the Bristol area to get involved. If you’d like to, please get in touch with Jacqui at Designability on 01225 824107 or [email protected].”
The best of Bath
Next year, Designability will be celebrating its 50th birthday and is happy to say Bath has always been its home: “Although we are a national organisation, our heritage is Bath through and through.
“Our local networks, community and people help to influence our work and it’s fantastic to be located in a place that is a constant source of inspiration and energy – from our fundraisers to our collaborators. And we’re proud to have very strong academic links with the University of Bath and the University of the West of England, as well as the local colleges in the area.”
Thanks to Fiona and Jess for taking the time to talk to us. Check out Designability’s website to read more about the awesome projects it’s working on. If you want to get more involved with the work they do, don’t be afraid to get in touch with ideas or suggestions. You can also follow them on Twitter to get the latest updates: @