‘No one left on the bench’ as Ely College students take up the challenge to design for disability

PUBLISHED: 11:05 14 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:05 14 December 2018

Ely College students take up the challenge to design for disability with amputee John Willis. Picture: KERRI VELLA.

Ely College students take up the challenge to design for disability with amputee John Willis. Picture: KERRI VELLA.

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An amputee who has fought against the odds to overcome barriers in everyday life visited Ely College to inspire students.

Ely College students take up the challenge to design for disability with amputee John Willis. Picture: KERRI VELLA.Ely College students take up the challenge to design for disability with amputee John Willis. Picture: KERRI VELLA.

John Willis, founder of charity Power2Inspire, spoke with design and technology pupils about designing for purpose.

Speaking with mixed years in assembly at Ely College, John, who was born without fully-formed arms or legs introduced students to what Power2inspire does for people of all abilities.

Inspired by his talk, Year 10 design and technology students moved on to a workshop exploring John has overcome barriers in his everyday life.

Working in groups, students looked to invent or adapt everyday items that could help John with real world problems.

Ely College students take up the challenge to design for disability with amputee John Willis. Picture: KERRI VELLA.Ely College students take up the challenge to design for disability with amputee John Willis. Picture: KERRI VELLA.

He explained: “The challenge is not in coming up with solutions, but phrasing or forming the question in a way they shows that these young people really understand the problems less able bodied people face.

“Empathy is a big part of the project today as students reframe their world, experiencing problems from a new perspective.

“I have been very impressed with their efforts.”

It comes as John completed a personal challenge called the ‘Road to Rio’ in 2016 where he took on all 34 Paralympic and Olympic sports, having a go at everything from archery to judo, ending with a charity game of golf.

He added: “You can imagine playing handball with no hands was tricky, but it was a great privilege to make friends with professionals and show how fantastically welcoming the world of sports can be.”

Power2Inspire now promotes inclusive and adaptive sports, so no one with disabilities or impairments is ‘left on the bench’.

This is the first time that the charity has worked with secondary school young designers.

Trying to make lives easier by designing for disability, it is hoped they can stumble upon innovative solutions that are often better than those when we design for the norm.

Dave Bausor, lead practitioner for design and technology at Ely College, said: “We are keen to develop a supportive partnership going forward. Today is the students’ first steps on journey of design.

“We are looking forward to taking their ideas, and developing models and practical proto-types for John early next year, as well as supporting the charity through our pledges and sport leaders programmes.”

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