Designability has reached a huge milestone with its 1000th powered wheelchair being handed over to a child through its pioneering Wizzybug Loan Scheme.
The national charity, which designs and engineers products to help disabled people to live with greater independence, launched its loan scheme a decade ago to support families with very young disabled children.
With very little funding available on the NHS for such products for very young children, the Bath-based charity saw an opportunity to offer its purpose-built powered wheelchairs to children across the UK for free. The first Wizzybug was handed over in 2011 and now, a decade on, the 1000th child has received theirs.
Two-and-a-half year old Parker from Shropshire visited St Martin’s Hospital in Bath with his parents to meet some members of the Designability team and collect his wheelchair.
CEO of Designability, Catharine Brown, said, “To have reached this significant landmark of the 1000th Wizzybug is an amazing feeling. Each Wizzybug has represented so much positive change for the children and families who have been helped through the scheme; they bring independence, fun and mobility to disabled children as they are just beginning to explore the world around them.
“None of our work would have been possible without the generous support of our fundraisers and donors and I would like to thank everyone who has supported this important work.
“For the Designability team this milestone is huge. Everything we do has one end goal in sight of giving disabled people greater independence.
“Reaching 1,000 Wizzybugs loaned out to 1,000 families in 10 years reaffirms to us that there is high demand out there for the loan scheme and it strengthens our resolve to reach the next milestone of 2,000 within the next five years.”
One child to benefit from the scheme is four-year-old Annabelle from Sussex. Annabelle was diagnosed with bilateral Cerebral Palsy when she was one year old, which limits her mobility.
Her mum Rochelle explained, “Looking on Instagram we saw other families using Wizzybug. It was lovely to see the children moving around independently and joining in with their families, so we contacted Designability to see if one would be suitable for Annabelle.
“Once we were accepted onto the scheme and collected the Wizzybug, the difference it made was huge. It completely changed Annabelle, giving her independence and confidence. It was really great to see.
“She’s really happy to just be driving around and exploring. Her favourite thing to do is to go as far away as possible! And we play hide and seek all the time with her younger sister Isla.
“The Wizzybug allows Annabelle and Isla to play together and chase each other. It’s allowed Annabelle to push boundaries and be mischievous; things which every child should do!
“Designability and Wizzybug Loan Scheme have made such a different to us as a family and there are thousands of children out there who could benefit from it – the more people that can find out about it the better!”
Designability receives no government funding and relies entirely on voluntary donations to continue to provide the Wizzybug Loan Scheme free of charge.
2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the scheme which has helped 1,000 families since 2011. The charity’s goal is to reach another 1,000 families by 2026.
Back row, left to right: CEO Catharine Brown, Workshop Manager Martin Rouse, Senior Children’s Occupational Therapist Rae Baines, Wizzybug Loan Scheme Administrator Lesley Johnson.
Front row, left to right: The newest Wizzybug family, Ryan, Parker and Becky.