Disability Timeline worked on in collaboration with Dave Thompson MBE
Disability Timeline worked on in collaboration with Dave Thompson MBE

After announcing plans to deliver the first National Disability Museum in the UK, Dave Thompson MBE DL, Co-founder and CEO of Warrington Disability Partnership & Disability Trading Company has discussed with THIIS an ambitious new element of the project that could help shape the future of products to come.

Called the ‘Design and Development Hub’, the facility would provide a space for equipment designers to display, showcase and test their latest innovations says Dave.

“We are hoping to give the design teams the opportunity to send a piece of kit over to our design and technology hub. It could be manufacturers, universities or others keen to get their assistive technology in front of users and gather valuable insights and feedback before going to the production stage,” he commented.

According to Dave, the facility could help manufacturers and product designers gain valuable market research that traditionally can prove to be expensive, as well as avoiding the costly possibility of redesigns to be made or a full recall.

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Discussing the value of the Hub for industry, Dave explained: “After selling mobility solutions for the last nine years, visiting numerous Naidex and Rehacare exhibitions over the years and being a wheelchair user myself, I have seen equipment come onto the market that you know after using it immediately if it has come straight from the design table to be manufactured.

“There may be little niggles or issues and sometimes, a manufacturer’s first version of a new product will undergo design changes after getting more market feedback. The Design and Development Hub would look to change that by giving actual user-led critiques from not only disabled people but also occupational therapists and other healthcare professionals that may be using the kit.”

Inviting end-users, carers and healthcare professionals to try and test the equipment on display and provide their feedback to developers, the project hopes to bring about new solutions that match with the desires of the individuals using them.

“When I first met Steve Kennedy from NRS Healthcare, he said something to me that stuck with me, that being, “we want to develop products that people want and don’t just need.” Even though it sounds obvious, it really isn’t something that has not always been a priority in this industry,” continued Dave.

“Making equipment desirable. Take glasses for example, there are people today who wear and incorporate glasses into their look and their lifestyle. Some will match a pair of glasses with an outfit. Sure, they need the products but it is about getting them to fit in with people’s lifestyle preferences. So why can’t we do that with disability equipment?”

Interestingly, Dave highlights that beyond receiving value user feedback, the Design and Development Hub will also give companies an effective platform to promote and share their latest innovations with an engaged audience internationally.

“We would also advertise it worldwide to the disabled community that a specific innovation is available for a limited time to try and test it with open days at the Hub,” noted Dave.

The new Development and Design Hub would form one aspect of the proposed National Disability Museum, the UK’s first museum dedicated to showcasing the full spectrum of disability and its fascinating & diverse history.

Earlier in the month, Dave called on industry individuals, companies and associations to dig through their archives for artefacts to help bring the museum to life, including products, design plans, photos and more.

Having spoken to manufacturers and designers in the industry, Dave says the project has received positive feedback, particularly the Hub.

“I have spoken with a number of developers who have expressed a real interest in this and confirmed they would use it if it was available. Now we just need the resources to make it a reality,” he ended.

As well as asking artefacts, Warrington Disability Partnership, the charity driving the National Disability Museum forward, is also looking for necessary funding to bring a project manager on board and is encouraging any organisations keen to become involved to get in touch by contacting Dave Thompson at DaveThompson@disabilitypartnership.org.uk

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