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

On Thursday, Ely College welcomed John Willis, founder of Power2Inspire. His charity promotes inclusive and adaptive sports, so no one with disabilities or impairments is ‘left on the bench’. Ely College invited John, who was born without fully-formed arms or legs, to speak with their design and technology students and start on a collaborative journey of designing for purpose.

Speaking with mixed years in assembly, John introduced students to what Power2inspire does for people of ALL abilities. Bringing disabled and non-disabled children together for the Power House Games and regular Festivals of Inclusive Sport, everyone is able to keep fit and active together. John, on his own is an inspiration, having completed a personal challenge he set himself back in 2016.

His ‘Road to Rio’ challenge saw him take on all 34 Paralympic and Olympic sports, having a go at everything from archery to judo, ending with a charity game of golf. John reflected on the challenge: “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.”

Inspired by his talk, Year 10 Design and Technology students moved on to a workshop exploring how this remarkable man has to 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. To help them, John 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.”

This is the first time Power2Inspire has worked with a secondary school young designers: “Ely College has really embraced this concept of collaborative designing, working together around a contextual problem. We are challenging young people to think of solutions for issues they haven’t encountered, which is good practice for the future where they will need solutions to issues we have yet to face.”

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 added: “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.”