Wheelchair users demand a stylish future


Voting on 22 designs for stylish, innovative and functional wheelchair accessories opens today on the Blue Badge Style & Brunel University London websites. Voting ends on 1st January 2015 and the winning idea will be developed into a prototype.

As part of Brunel University London’s Co-Innovate programme, Blue Badge Style’s founder, Fiona Jarvis, challenged final year Product & Industrial Design students to come up with new ideas. They have produced designs which address some key issues for practical, yet chic, wheelchair use:

  • Bag – wheelchair users have to hang their whole life on the back of a chair. The bag needs to be secure and accessible while seated, but also make it fashionable and stylish.
  • Party – A practical cocktail holder. It’s hard to hold a drink and wheel at the same time, impossible with a canapé too! Most drinks holders are for water bottles, not cocktails.
  • Chair – Style my wheelchair. Chairs are still uncomfortable and come in any colour you like as long as it’s black. Comfort and style should be key.
  • Rain – A waterproof wheelchair cover that also says I’m on trend. It’s impossible to hold an umbrella and wheel at the same time. Whilst there are waterproof covers available, they’re not very stylish.

Other design ideas that came out of the project include a phone charger powered by wheeling, a tablet holder and somewhere for wheelchair users to place a placard on a demonstration.

Fiona explains “style and disability should not be mutually exclusive. The car industry has embraced technology to improve seats, but wheelchair design is stuck in the 1940s and stylish accessories are non-existent. Disabled people badly need some well-designed accessories that aren’t just in navy or black!”. She continues, “It has been amazing working with the Brunel students, as they totally understand the importance of combining style with a practical solution. We’re looking to develop these ideas as soon as possible, especially as I’d like to be able to use them!”

Stephen Green, Programme Director, MSc Integrated Product Design at Brunel University commented, “Co-Innovate aims to enhance collaboration between universities, businesses and industry through a focus on design and open innovation. Blue Badge Style was a great fit for us as we are both focused on good design which includes a highly practical element. Our students have a genuine interest in design to improve people’s lives, and projects such as this are great opportunities for them to develop greater empathy and understanding of real life experience for wheel chair users. Once voting is completed, we want to develop these ideas into prototypes.”.

Blue Badge Style is the UK’s only company that looks at disability from a style & design perspective, taking a stylish, pragmatic and cost-efficient approach to inclusive access and lifestyle. “Style is the overriding premise of Blue Badge Style, along with a positive outlook” says Fiona Jarvis, “disability should not stop you from enjoying life. It’s freedom shared!”.

Please vote by 1st Jan 2015 at https://www.surveymonkey.com

See Design Week article http://www.designweek.co.uk/analysis/wheelchair-design