The Big Blog Backlog: Part One

calendar showing January 2011The Christmas decorations have been carefully packed away for yet another year, but I’ve still got an overwhelming need to get myself organised. I’ll let you all into a little secret, this has been my New Year’s resolution each and every year since I can remember.

Niggling at the back of my mind, is the fact that I’ve been sitting on a number of blog posts that really should have been published quite some time ago…

So what better way to banish those cobwebs and hopefully ease my conscious a little, than a good old fashioned clear out, in a virtual sense that is!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for trabasack_logo_new.gifThe Big Blog Backlog starts today with a piece written by Duncan Edwards from Trabasack, who wrote an article on our “We are Enabled by Design” event held at the Design Museum in June 2010, for the November issue of Thiis (The Homecare Industry Information Service) magazine.


Team EbD x

PS. A very big thank you to Duncan
Edwards for helping to spread the word about our event, as well as Trabasack’s
support as a ‘Friend of EbD’ event sponsor.


A different take on design
Thiis logo
Conferences can be a little bland in our marketplace. However, an event that took place a couple of months ago had a slightly different feel to it. It was the brainchild of a new organisation that is hoping to make its mark when it comes to influencing product design. A THIIS member took the time to give us an insight into what went on….

Enabled by Design is an interesting new organisation that was inspired by co-founder Denise Stephens’ experiences following her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis in 2003. Denise was assessed by an OT, given a range of equipment to help, but became frustrated as her home started to look more and more like a hospital.

Enabled by Design logoIn April 2008, Enabled by Design was chosen to take part in the first ever Social Innovation Camp. A weekend long competition, Social Innovation Camp brings together people with ideas of how to solve specific social issues, with web developers, designers and those with business expertise to develop online solutions to real world challenges.

At the end of the weekend after a Dragons’ Den-style pitching competition, Enabled by Design was awarded first prize as the ‘project with most potential’. The panel of judges included innovation expert Charles Leadbeater, Bebo co-founder Paul Birch, Yahoo technical evangelist Christian Heilmann and head of the Young Foundation’s Launchpad, Simon Tucker.

The resulting website is described as ‘a community of people passionate about well designed everyday products.’ It aims to ‘challenge the one-size-fits-all approach to assistive equipment through the use of clever modern design’.
NHS crutches
The site praises and damns product design. A recent entry stated; “I hate my NHS crutches – they’re drab and boring. They make me feel disabled – and I don’t need any help there!”

All in all it’s an interesting website. A few months ago the organisation hosted a day when product design was the focus. We asked Duncan Edwards of Trabasack to give us a flavour of the debates and discussions. Here is what he sent us….

‘We are Enabled by Design’ Unconference by Duncan Edwards

Equip-able Ltd, manufacturers of the award winning Trabasack sponsored and participated in the first event held by the founders of the website 

With much excitement, my wife, Clare and I headed along the bustling riverside of the Thames with a suitcase full of Trabasacks to the imposing building of the London Design museum. The location of the event was well chosen with terrific views of Tower Bridge during the breaks and bracing fresh air, despite it being London.

Design MuseumThe event itself was, as might be expected, a model of considered accessibility with all the talks being signed and many friendly ‘Helpers’ on hand to assist anyone who needed it. Attendees were encouraged to ‘tweet’ during the event. That is, to update what was happening or report interesting quotes using the web service Twitter via their mobile phones.

Throughout the event ‘tweets’ were broadcast to interested non attendees and afterward comments could be collected and displayed as a live event blog for everyone.

Denise Stephens co founder of the community website introduced the 120 attendees to the day. Denise explained how after being diagnosed with MS she had become frustrated with the assistive equipment she needed to use. She had found that because of the medical look of many health care products her home was looking more and more like a hospital and this was making her feel more depressed about her illness. She had found that some products on the High Street such as an IKEA stool that could be used instead of the perching stool suggested to her by an OT. The IKEA stool worked just as well but fitted in with the look of her home better than the clinical design of a perching stool.
Enabled by Design website screenshotDenise was inspired to launch the Enabled by Design website to find like minded people who could share the products that they found worked for them. In doing so, she has created an online community of people who are passionate about the products that help them live an easier life.

By sharing their loves, hates and ideas on the site the ‘Enabled by Design-ers’ are challenging the one-size-fits-all approach to assistive equipment, and championing clever modern designs. She also hoped to promote her passion for ‘Design for All’. This is a design philosophy targeting the use of products, services and systems by as many people as possible without the need for adaptation.

According to the European Commission, it “encourages manufacturers and service providers to produce new technologies for everyone: technologies that are suitable for the elderly and people with disabilities as much as the teenage techno wizard.”

Denise explained that rather than focus on impairments we should concentrate on people’s abilities and the products and services that can help support them to live independently. Also by making mainstream products usable by as wide a range of people as possible, it helps to remove any stigma attached.
Trabasack lap desk and travel bag
This is something that we have tried very hard to do wi
th Trabasack. That is, make a product that is useful to people of all abilities and thereby reduce any feeling of “don’t want this but I have to buy it because I am disabled.”

Wayne Hemingway MBE was one of the speakers. Despite Wayne having originally no formal qualifications in design or architecture he has built a career on his innate feelings for designs that work for people and society. Originally building up ‘Red or Dead’ from one stall on Camden Market to a multi-million pound company he now heads Hemingway Design and has been honoured with numerous professorships and doctorates.
He discussed the KiosKiosk project. An idea that reflects his own commercial beginnings at an indoor market. The KiosKiosk is a low cost mobile shop unit that moves a few inches each day to avoid planning and other regulations. This moving shop space is rented to young and aspiring would-be retailers who would otherwise be unable to test their products and reach customers on the High street. There is currently a KiosKiosk slowly crawling around the streets of Nottingham and the idea has been embraced by Nottingham City council who want to encourage start up business back into the town centre.
Wayne HemingwaySimilarly his ‘Starter for ten’ project in Gateshead is giving empty shop units as rent free work spaces to entrepreneurs. Wayne’s agency and the City Council also offer them two years business support. He is now keen to have an impact on architecture and believes we have been ‘building the slums of the future’ by filling our inner cities with 1 and 2 bed flats and rather than mixed dwellings that share social spaces where communities and social links can develop.

The presentation by Julia Cassim, who is Senior Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art followed. Julia worked in Japan and was the designer and curator of award winning exhibitions for audiences with visual impairments and learning disabilities. On returning to the UK in 2000 she organised the DBA Inclusive Design Challenges. These challenges partnered disabled people with professional design teams in live design projects for the mainstream market.

Julia discussed the demographic changes in society and the importance of inclusive design for companies. She stated that if you add the percentage of people with a disability to the percentage of older people in our population, you now have the majority. Older people are also becoming more technology and product literate. So called ‘Yoyo’s (older bodies, young minds), people like Stephen Fry and Madonna, are becoming powerful influencers of what products are seen in the media.

Manufacturers should ensure that their products are able to be enjoyed by everyone.
Mo cushionJulia’s design challenges have shown that redesign with disabled peoples input can lead to innovation. The DBA Design Challenges were inspired by examples from history, such as the typewriter, that was first created for someone who couldn’t hold a pen.

The Mo cushion was the winner of the DBA Design challenge in 2009. It was created by a mixed team of designers, carers and residents of Trowbridge Care Home and people who worked spent long periods working or travelling in a seated position. Mo replaces the traditional synthetic foam or gel cushion padding with a moulded matrix product consisting of a polymer sandwiched between mouldings of linked ‘pixels’.

Each pixel conforms to the user’s weight, adapting to their movements and distributing their body mass more evenly on the seat. It also means that people can ‘fidget’ increasing the comfort for people seated for long periods in the same position and reduces the possibility of pressure sores for those unable to stand up. The Mo cushion’s matrix is non-porous making it easy to rinse clean, soak or be disinfected in a care setting. And being lightweight it is portable and easy to take to places where there are often uncomfortable seats such as classrooms, sports arenas and open-air theatres.

These design challenges have shown that by using input from people with disabilities, placing designers in unfamiliar situations and forcing them to understand that the extremities of ability you can create a powerful force for innovation.
We are Enabled by Design goodie bagsOther highlights included Antonia Hyde, web designer and consultant and Kath Moonan, accessibility consultant who discussed the importance of making websites easy to navigate and understand for people with different disabilities. She stressed the importance of deciding to make a website accessible early in its design rather than attempting to fix it later. The cost of improving it being far greater than getting it right initially. 

Thought provoking and direct, Charles Leadbeater suggested that the way we provide services to people, needed to be ‘with’ them, and not ‘for’ them. Charles is a former government advisor to Tony Blair and he argues that participation, rather than consumption or production, will be the key organizing idea of future society.
Charlie LeadbeaterHe discussed the shift in society where things that were done ‘by’ or ‘with’ us and are now done ‘for’ and ‘to’ us and that when things were done ‘for’ and ‘to’ us they were often unpleasant and unwanted. He said that this shift was happening in justice, health, politics and education. We are schooled to believe that the ‘end justifies the means’ and that it is outcomes that matter and the way that outcome is arrived at is not important. Outcomes such as consumer satisfaction or shareholder value are all that is deemed to matter.

However the ‘means’ are not just tools to reach the outcome. There is a choice on how the outcome is arrived at and that is by doing something ‘for’ people or ‘with’ them, and that the outcome arrived at is totally different in each case.

The ‘We are Enabled by Design’ event was probably the most thought provoking and inspiring that we have been to. It was a very c
reatively and thoughtfully organised event and this atmosphere brought out the best from the participants.

Some key lessons for manufacturers and retailers are:
• Engage with customers for product development, people with disabilities are expert users and innovators
• Produce something that is inclusive and it will be easier to use and more widely adopted in the mainstream
• Products for general use will increasingly be made for everyone lessening the market for specialist products for particular impairments
• Website accessibility is extremely important in health care, and should be considered at the earliest opportunity
• If you want to encourage participation in your projects and campaigns, there are now many new online social media tools to facilitate it.
More about Duncan:
Duncan Edwards is an entrepreneur, cider maker and father of two boys (one of whom has Dravet Syndrome). He is a Genetics honours graduate, with 10 years local government experience in welfare benefits, homelessness and housing policy. He is the co-founder/director of Equip-able Ltd, manufacturers of the award winning Trabasack laptray travel bag. 

There are also videos of some of the speakers available at as well as other guest blogs giving viewpoints of people who attended.
More information on accessible websites can be found at

Reproduced from THIIS magazine – the trade magazine for the homecare industry –