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Design prize winner develops special crayons for children living with arthritis

Ash sits at a table using the Picture Puppet crayons while smiling at the camera

A sustainable product designer on placement with Designability hopes to launch a crayon which can help children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) to draw and colour.

'Picture Puppets'

Ash Sharma, a Falmouth University graduate, won our 2018 Assistive Technology Design Prize and has been on placement at Designability for three months while we supported him to develop his university design project.

‘Picture Puppets’ are a set of crayons that help children aged 3 – 8 with JIA to draw and colour. He has designed them with young people in mind featuring fun, animal designs.

Picture puppets packaging and crayons laid out on a table

Enabling children to hold crayons comfortably

Ash first became aware of JIA when he was visiting some family and discovered that his young, teenage cousin was living with the condition. In fact, there are 15,000 children under 16 in the UK who have the illness, with 10,000 being diagnosed each year.

The symptoms of arthritis that his cousin was experiencing in the joints of his fingers meant that he was unable to hold pens, pencils or crayons comfortably.

Although there are products which give children the ability to grip, there is little else on offer to give them the opportunity to create and complete designs on paper.

How we helped Ash to develop his project

While on placement with us, Ash has been able to call on the expertise of the team to carry out user testing; structure questionnaires for family consultations and perform risk assessments. He has also been able to access our workshop facilities to finalise his prototyping.

The ‘Picture Puppets’ also carry an important environmental message: each crayon shows a species that is endangered in the wild. A bonus, educational feature on what will hopefully be a very useful, valued product among children who struggle with regular crayons.