Unique swimming aid for disabled children shortlisted for design award
AquaPlane, a revolutionary swimming aid which helps disabled children learn how to swim, is in the running for the Blackwood Design Awards 2018, shortlisted under the Best New Aids and Equipment category.
The swimming and buoyancy aid has been specifically designed to be adaptable to meet a range of different needs and was shortlisted because of the safety and protection the equipment provides to all learners, according to the judges.
Children can wear or hold the device to help them gain confidence in the water, introduce the correct swimming position, act as a training aid to develop the four strokes or be used as a kickboard to build strength and stamina.
Chris Shore, Inventor of the AquaPlane, said: “We supply stock to several swim schools that focus on helping kids and adults with both physical and learning disabilities and we’ve received really great feedback.
“We’re focusing on getting the AquaPlane out there to the people that could benefit from it the most.”
Chris has been a swim teacher for over ten years and noticed a gap in the market for a ‘multiuse’ piece of kit.
He commented: “I’d have to take a dozen kickboards, a dozen back floats and it was hard to manage, expensive and took up so much space.
“I thought to myself, ‘why isn’t there something that does both jobs?’ and the idea and concept grew from there.
“It wasn’t a simple process. There are so many different boxes that need to be ticked in order to ensure it’s safe for kids.”
It took three years to complete the design work for the AquaPlane to make sure all the protection, health and safety checks, buoyancy aids and sea testing would pass all the required standards.
Last year, while browsing social media, Chris came across a video of a six-year-old Bosnian child, Ismail Zulfic, who was determined to swim even though he was born with no arms.
Chris sought out his address and sent him an AquaPlane; Ismail has since rapidly learned how to swim and has sent Chris videos of his progression.
“Seeing little Ismail swim was probably my most heartfelt moment,” Chris said.
“At first, he used AquaPlane as a back float to learn, and now isn’t using it at all. We still keep in touch, and he’s just doing ace.
“It’s truly an honour to be recognised for our creation – and the prospect of being shortlisted for the Blackwood Design Awards is very exciting as it could really help us make a name for ourselves and grow our product.”
The AquaPlane has already been endorsed by world-class swimmers, such as Dan Coombs and Chris Cook.
Max Brown, Chair of Blackwood Board, said: “Every year, we seek out the most transformative and imaginative ideas that play a key role in improving the lives of those living with disabilities.
“The AquaPlane is a perfect example of an idea that has come about when a bright designer has been confronted with an obstacle and it’s people’s ability to think outside the box to find a solution that we want to celebrate.
“It’s very hard to shortlist the entries, but we always ensure that some of the best and most forward-thinking designs get the national recognition they deserve.”
Previous designs that have won the Awards include a wheelchair that allows users to control its direction with their eyes and the ‘S’up Spoon’ – a self-stabilising piece of cutlery which enables users with shaky hands to eat without spilling their food.
Max added: “Sometimes design entries are truly outstanding in their technical design and other times it can be the case of putting forward a straightforward solution that nobody has considered up with before.
“That’s the beauty of these awards – they’re incredibly diverse.”
The Blackwood Design Awards 2018 will see six entrants considered for the title, with the winner announced on 30th May.
Blackwood is an Edinburgh-based charity with more than 1,500 homes throughout the country to help those who are disabled, elderly or with sensory impairments to live more independently.