The powered wheelchair that has changed the life of a Dorchester youngster
PUBLISHED: 15:49 30 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:49 30 August 2017
Linus Moran Photography
The Wizzybug is specially designed to give mobility to the under 5s. This remarkable powered wheelchair has helped a youngster from Dorchester to actively play with friends and family, as Fiona Cromwell explains
For most young children, the ability to move around of their own free will is something they take for granted. But many children are unable to walk or move freely due to a disability.
Having to rely on a family member to move and position them means that they miss out on developing movement skills and the opportunity to explore their surroundings through play. Being able to move is also important for making friends, communicating and socialising.
At first glance, Seth Higgins, 4, appears to be like any other energetic, mischievous carefree toddler. But the bright red toy-like device that he is seated in is not, in fact, a toy. It’s a Wizzybug powered wheelchair. Seth was born with cerebral palsy which means he cannot walk. Up until the age of 2, Seth, who lives in Dorchester with parents Charlotte and Joel, and twins Jessie and Beau, was reliant on a family member to push him around in a buggy. As his peers started walking, and then running, Seth was only able to look on. But then, in 2014, his mum Charlotte saw something that could help Seth join in: “We had become friends with a family in Weymouth whose little boy had just got a Wizzybug that was enabling him to get around independently. They had got it free of charge through a charity, so we made enquiries to see if we could get one for Seth.”
Charlotte was surprised at how well Seth took to his Wizzybug: “The moment he put his hand on the joystick and made himself move on his own, for the very first time, made me very tearful. Happy tears!”
Created in 2007 by a team of experienced designers and occupational therapists at the charity Designability, the Wizzybug is a fun, powered wheelchair aimed at children aged 14 months – 5 years. Originally sold on a ‘not for profit’ basis it soon became apparent that not all families could afford this potentially life changing chair. Then in 2010 a generous organisation made a substantial donation in order for Wizzybugs to be offered to families completely free of charge.
Wizzybugs are suitable for children who have conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, spina bifida and muscular dystrophy. The only eligibility criteria is that they go to children who could benefit from increased mobility, who are able to be safely seated in a Wizzybug and can demonstrate some independent control. The best bit is they were designed with children in mind. “Seth is so proud to be seen in his Wizzybug,” said Charlotte. “It’s not like the clinical or clunky equipment that you get elsewhere. He loves to show off in it. And there have been so many magical moments. I remember one very cold morning Seth was able to explore frost with his school friends. Seeing him crunching across the grass on Wizzy was just so special. Without Wizzy he’d just have been watching his friends having all the fun.”
Designability, formerly known as Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, was established in 1968 as an independent charity by inventor and engineer, Bevan Horstmann, and local consultant surgeon, Kenneth Lloyd-Williams – they wanted to create medical equipment that would really make a difference to people’s lives. In 2011, the first Wizzybug was allocated through the loan scheme. The support from donations ensures that the loan scheme is available to children like Seth all across the UK. If you know a child who may benefit from a Wizzybug, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01225 824103. To find out how to support the charity visit designability.org.uk.