A brief history of how we designed and developed our wonderful Wizzybugs.
Speaking with families and those who support them
Designability already had infant and junior bugs which had been created in response to observing the number of children who were sat in pushchairs and unable to join in with play. The bugs were a ‘sit astride’ model based on a traditional nursery toy and were being sold on a not-for-profit basis. Although they were one of the very first devices built to get children mobile in the UK, their basic design was then quite dated. It was time for a rethink.
In 2003, our occupational therapist, Nina, was asked to review the infant and junior bugs’ suitability for helping young children’s mobility in their early years. We wrote to all the families who had an infant or junior bug to ask them what was good about them, as well as what improvements they felt could be made. The other important step was sending out a questionnaire to paediatric occupational therapists and physiotherapists around the country to assess user requirements for a new pre-school powered mobility vehicle.
All of the professionals who responded were invited to be part of a focus group who would help to inform and guide the design and development of the Wizzybug. From the very start, we were lucky enough to be joined by Anne Harris, Jan Nicholson and Eric Lucas – three very experienced occupational therapists who are experts in the field of paediatric mobility and continue to support the scheme today.
From that point on, we had physiotherapists and occupational therapists representing families, as well as families themselves, helping us during the protoype phase onwards.
Getting the design just right
Designing Wizzybug was not a quick process. In order to ensure it met specific needs, we had to keep consulting those with required expertise and several families helped us to road test the very first version Wizzybugs.
That included Sophie, who kept a diary of all of her adventures with her Wizzybug. Her family recorded where Sophie was using her Wizzybug, what she was doing in it and how it made her feel. It’s some of the earliest recorded moments we have of the difference a Wizzybug can make.
In 2007, Wizzybug was ready to be sold. We had tried our very hardest to get the price of Wizzy to be as low as possible, but we continued to receive a high volume of enquiries from parents who were still finding it too high a cost to fundraise for.
In 2011, we managed to secure initial funding from The Starfish Trust to enable us to start loaning out the Wizzybugs free of charge to families. It was thanks to their generous donation that Wizzybugs started going out all over the UK to children who got to have their first experience of moving independently.
Continuing to improve our Wizzybugs for families
We are continuing to improve our Wizzybug powered wheelchairs so that they are even more user-friendly for families to use. This will help to enhance the child and family’s experience.
Expanding the Wizzybug Loan Scheme
Over the next five years, we will be testing and launching a number of innovations in both the product design and the free loan service to welcome many more children across the UK onto the scheme.
Designability will be supported to achieve this expansion by a partnership with Motability, the Charity.