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Ski 'frame' transforms skiing experience for disabled children

27 March 2012

A final year product design student at Nottingham Trent University has designed and manufactured an innovative piece of skiing equipment that is set to revolutionise the sport’s experience for disabled children. Carl Rodrigues’ new ski frame seeks to reduce the stigma commonly attached to products designed for the disabled.

Carl Rodrigues' ski frame as used by Megs Baynham on the Katie’s Ski Tracks holiday
Carl Rodrigues' ski frame as used by Megs Baynham on the Katie’s Ski Tracks holiday

Current adaptive ski equipment uses seated skiing, which is noticeably dissimilar to that of the able-bodied experience. Working closely with DEMAND – a charity that specialises in the design and manufacture of bespoke equipment for the disabled – and Katie’s Ski Tracks – a charity that takes children with disabilities on skiing holidays – Carl’s new ski frame enables children aged seven to 15 years with limited or no use of their legs to ski in an upright position.  His design was successfully used in a recent trip by Katie’s Ski Tracks.

Carl – who spent a year on placement with DEMAND as part of his university course - said: “With disability affecting approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population it is important to reduce any stigma associated with specially-designed products, and ensure that experiences are made as similar to able-bodied people as possible.

“Along with the needs of the children, a number of other aspects had to be taken into account for the design such as the estimated travel size and weight, the ease of changing the frame from ‘travel’ to ‘in use’ modes, and the user’s comfort. It was great to see the ski frame I designed being used on the slopes recently – I have a few modifications to make, but the initial response was great.” 

The two charities – DEMAND and Katie’s Ski Tracks – have been in partnership for many years, designing prototypes of upright ski frames for use by children with disabilities.

Paul Malloy, senior designer at DEMAND, commented: “The children’s needs are complex and various prototypes have been made in the last ten years, with different approaches investigated and tried. Carl designed his ski frame with these approaches in mind. He has incorporated some of the most successful features of previous designs and introduced his own ideas and innovations to produce a unique piece of equipment.”
DEMAND provides its service to people with disabilities regardless of their financial circumstances, whose difficulties span the full disability spectrum with the majority struggling to cope with debilitating conditions, such as arthritis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal injury and sensory impairments, many have multiple disabilities. DEMAND is, therefore, totally dependent on the goodwill and generosity of donors and are always looking for fundraisers.
Carl plans to gain further experience in the product design field when he graduates in July.

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