Autonomy for disabled people: Incorporating the lessons of COVID-19 into powerchair design

Lead Participant: Dragonmobility Ltd

Abstract

**Dragonmobility**

Over 2,000 disabled people's lives have been transformed by the pioneering work carried out over the last 39 years by Dan Everard and his family and colleagues on behalf of people with severe mobility impairments.

Since 2005 this has been through a not-for-profit company called Dragonmobility Ltd. According to its committed users in the UK and abroad, Dragonmobility powerchairs out-class other powerchairs in the way they enable them to act, think and feel confident in a mainly non-disabled world. The aim is to give users freedom to access largely unadapted accommodation, be agile enough to gain a good education, contribute positively in the workplace and live normal family lives, taking responsibilities appropriately with minimum support from others or the state.

This has been achieved by attention to details that are individually customised in close collaboration with potential users. It is also a result of Dan Everard's expertise in analogue control systems, which sets these chairs apart in terms of the instinctive and natural movement they allow. The design is holistic, enabling vertical as well as horizontal movement, from ground level upwards.

Dan has been designing similar chairs since 1981\. He received a Tobie award from the electronics industry for this in 1984, and has been nominated for international prizes for his work. The business is now directed by his daughter, Ruth Everard, herself a Dragonmobility powerchair user. Dan is moving towards retirement and passing on his expertise to the younger generations. This project is the pre-cursor to further development to fit the technology to future-ready engineering training and practice, to employ young engineers to carry Dan's work forward.

**The Project**

The project to be funded by Innovate UK will help the company overcome the significant challenges to its operation caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The experience of continuing to support its clients during the pandemic has focussed the company on the new circumstances of the disabled people Dragonmobility serve, many of whom have had to shield. Significant aspects of the design are to be updated using new technology and manufacturing techniques, to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce cost, improve reliability, facilitate even more client self-sufficiency and avoid too much face-to-face contact being required, while retaining all the established features and benefits of these sophisticated chairs. Innovate UK funding will allow opportunities for improvements in quality of products and service to be grasped, to compete more effectively as a UK manufacturer within the worldwide marketplace.

The project is expected to take up to 11 months, and will be carried out concurrently with separately funded continuation of manufacturing, supply and service of the current products. It will lay the groundwork for further developments to allow the company to restructure and launch a new support and training organisation alongside the production of the new models. The expertise gained over many years will be shared widely within the therapeutic professions who support and advise disabled people to continually improve practice in the supply of and seating for powerchairs.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Dragonmobility Ltd £287,640 £ 175,000

Publications

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