Teenager Rhys has a rare, progressive genetic condition which affects his extremities and his physical strength. While he has tried surfing, and enjoys it when the sea is calm, he finds that getting wet and cold is difficult for him. His mum, Adele, contacted our Innovation Centre to see if they could come up with a plan to help Rhys enjoy the ocean in a different way – by helping him to use a paddleboard to have fun with his friends.
Rhys’ Mum, Adele, explains that Rhys doesn’t have the same options that other children do or the opportunity to take part in ordinary things as activities often aren’t accessible and that the family can feel a bit separate from the rest of society.
Our team are renowned for their creative adaptations, having previously adapted a surfboard to allow children with disabilities to experience the joy of surfing safely, so there was no way they were going to turn down this challenge!
Ross Head from the Centre explains that because Rhys has low muscle tone, designing something that would allow him to sit comfortably and most importantly, safely, was extremely important. After some clever engineering, the CIC team designed a wedge seat that mounts on top of a standard paddle board and allows Rhys to sit comfortably and unaided. Floats attached to either side of the board give an extra level of safety, ensuring that the paddle board is less likely to capsize. The design met Rhys’ needs perfectly as the design of the seat can be adjusted depending on the level of support Rhys needs on a particular day – if he’s not feeling great he can drop back to a more supportive chair.
Adele gave the board her seal of approval: “What I liked about the paddle board is that there is low risk of Rhys falling off it. As he can wear his hearing aids and glasses he’s able to see the wildlife and have a better experience in the water. Getting out and about is so good for his health and wellbeing. Being able to go out on the board helps Rhys keep fit; it keeps his strength and maintains his physical and mental wellbeing. It has a number of benefits to it as well as him being able to do ordinary things with friends, which keeps it social”.
Adele hopes that the paddleboard will continue to benefit Rhys into the future:
“I have always pushed Rhys a little bit as part of his condition means that he is likely to be deafblind when he’s older and as his condition progresses he will be more nervous as things change. Being able to go out onto the sea and feel comfortable with it now, while his sight and hearing is fairly good, will mean that in the future it’ll be a familiar space for him and he’ll have the opportunity to stay active to help his physical and mental health.”
Of course, no design process would be complete without taking the finished product out for a test run! As you can probably tell from the video below, the trial was a huge success and Rhys had the time of his life in the water! Here’s what Rhys told us:
“I really enjoyed paddle boarding. We saw jellyfish! We saw crabs! I enjoyed the paddling, it keeps me fit. I feel safe and comfortable on the board. I’d like to go paddle boarding again and I’d like to take my friends.”
Our Innovation Team are passionate about designing and building products that are functional but also really cool and that children want to show off using. We share Adele’s ethos that if disabled children can see others enjoying activities, it creates options that they may not have even considered. As Adele says: “It’s about imagining yourself in a space and if you see something like that, you imagine yourself there and are willing to give it a go. If you say to a lot of parents or disabled people ‘Do you want to go paddle boarding’ they may not even consider that as an option, but if they see something like this they can imagine themselves there joining in. When you see something like this you think ‘oh wow, my child could do that!”
If you have an idea that would help your child join in and have fun but have no idea how to go about it, just get in touch with our Innovation Centre. The team will be thrilled to help.
If you’d like to support our Innovation Centre’s work and help other children to make splash you can make a donation here.