Design The Change 2022-23
“We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability” – Stevie Wonder
When Stevie Wonder said these words at the Grammys in 2016, it was met with applause. The message is clear and one that I fully endorse, but how we go about it is a big question. The reality is that it’s not going to happen overnight and the disabled community continue to face a very lacklustre approach to accessibility. Take for example the much lauded Elizabeth Line in London which I considered in my blog – ‘The Elizabeth Line: Is it a Step (Free) In The Right Direction?’
The Elizabeth Line, with its 41 step free stations, was not the Elizabeth Line that was originally planned. When the plans were drawn up several years ago, 7 stations were not intended to be step free. Let’s put that another way; when the plans were drawn up, a decision was made to exclude wheelchair users and other disabled passengers from 7 stations. It was only as a result of campaigning by charities like transport for all, that these stations were eventually included. A massive achievement and a testament to the fact that campaigning can effect change. But how disappointing that in such recent times, it was still considered acceptable to actively exclude people in the disabled community.
As part of our own attempt to make a difference, Bolt Burdon Kemp came up with the idea of a design competition. Design the Change (formerly known as ‘Getting Back On Track’), is a biennial competition. The brief is simple: to design a product that would improve the life of someone with a spinal cord injury. It is open to all UK university students at any level and whilst we see a lot of interest from those studying product design, we are also very happy to consider submissions from those of you studying anything else, whether that’s English, Medicine, Fashion or Theology. If you have an idea about how to make the world more accessible for someone with a spinal cord injury, then let us have that idea! If you are interested in entering the competition (did I mention the £3,000 prize?), then all the relevant information can be found on our website.
The Design the Change competition is one that I feel very passionate about. My work as a solicitor specialising in spinal injury claims means that I regularly interact with people from the SCI community and witness the ongoing challenges they face in their day-to-day lives. There are still so many activities which are impossible for those with a spinal cord injury and where there are products available, they are often expensive and aesthetically undesirable. I would add to what Stevie Wonder said. We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability, but those things should be affordable, beautiful and disabled people shouldn’t have to campaign to get them. I know these changes are not going to happen overnight, but equally we must not accept the status quo that we currently have; that it is too hard/expensive/difficult to make everything accessible. We must change our mentality. With every entry to our competition, I hope that we move forward to a different and fully accessible world, where accessibility is the new status quo.