Product Design Consultancy Renfrew Group, in partnership with the NHS unveiled the innovative modular children’s wheelchair ‘Chair 4 Life’ system designed to address the unmet needs of disabled children and young adults at NHS Expo in London today. The Chair4Life (C4L) initiative was developed by the NHS National Innovation centre (NIC) in response to clear statements of clinical need from users, carers and health experts. The priority need was identified in the Department of Health’s ‘Innovation Health & Wealth’ report to create a specification for a wheelchair, that would, be easily adaptable for a growing child, improve quality and provision of equipment, promote independence and improve a child’s quality of life.
With close team work and engagement with users and key stakeholders, Renfrew’s inclusive design approach identified how best to address the usability problems to ensure that the chair design prioritised needs of the users and carers first, but also radically redefined possibilities for prescription, manufacture and supply.
The resultant Chair4Life presents the concept of a compact universal, modular wheelchair system allowing wide specification to cater for the physical and social demands of a user’s life, capable of addressing the needs of at least 80% of paediatric users aged 4 to 18 years for powered wheelchairs.
Emphasis has been placed on producing a user centred design that adapts to an individual’s growing needs, with a seat and components that grow with the child, yet is compact and lightweight.
With the move towards new procurement processes, managed healthcare, tighter funding, and emerging ‘Any Qualified Providers’, the creation of a universal modular platform is designed to increase flexibility for provision to all users and suppliers.
A generic framework could be implemented allowing third party suppliers to provide accessories and components that can be swiftly attached to the motorised base and lifting platform, reducing the need to renew the entire wheelchair at each refit as the child grows, thereby reducing clinical time and costs and improving patient outcomes.
Other benefits of C4L is a vertical lift as standard, a key feature demanded by young users, enabling eye to eye interaction with their peers. Being able to talk face to face has been shown to facilitate social and educational development and improve feelings of dignity and independence.
The inclusion of the unique, automatic, ‘Varitrak’ adjustable wheelbase allows the user to adjust track and wheel base to suit indoor or outdoor conditions. A wider, longer track and wheelbase provides stability when it is needed and compactness for manoeuvrability in smaller spaces, providing greater freedom and independence.
The Chair4Life partnership approach has focused on innovative engineering and integrated product styling with design to deliver a compact, modern aesthetic that is fully customisable so that users do not feel swamped by their chairs and can present themselves as people.
“Chair for Life, a chair for living, was really designed by the users; the kids we worked closely with, but through our creative engineering design team in consultation with the NHS/NIC and industry. This is a design that clearly puts the user first. ‘See the Child, Not the chair’ was a constant motivation. But of equal importance was creating a modular wheelchair system which makes a real difference to patients and their carers, that has the potential to redefine possibilities for prescription, manufacture and supply” said Michael Phillips, Design Development Director of Renfrew Group (www.renfrewgroup.com)
By growing with the child and allowing later modifications, C4L provides an efficient and long term dimension to innovation and lays the foundations for proposed transformations within wheelchair services.