CEO of Warrington Disability Partnership, Dave Thompson, thinks that businesses in the mobility industry could have hordes historical artefacts including equipment, photographs and documents that could be exhibited in a new national disability museum planned for launch in 2021.
While the museum is still only in the development and research stage, WDP is scouring the UK for equipment that could feature in the museum and Mr Thompson believes that mobility dealers could have some of the most sought-after potential items.
He said that while WDP is not asking for people to give or lend any items yet, it is after expressions of interest and wants individuals and businesses to say what equipment they do have and whether it could be sold or loaned.
The museum aims to become the National Disability Museum and will house collections of various disability equipment ranging from antiquity all the way through to modern day to ensure that the history of disability is never forgotten.
Mr Thompson said: “I know for a fact that some of the people that read AMP, they’re the ones that have the items that the museum needs.”
He said that an ideal piece of equipment for the museum would be Stephen Hawking’s powerchair, which was auctioned off recently for £300,000.
“The question is, where is it? Is it something that someone would want to loan to a museum, where Professor Hawking’s life could be shared with future generations?
“We’re looking for organisations out there who have maybe got things. I know Stannah Stairlifts had a very momentous birthday in 2018. We are sure that organisations like Stannah, who have a long history in this field, must have items worth displaying to the public.
“At the moment we are asking people to say ‘this is what we’ve got’ so we can start to get an idea of what the collection of exhibits might include and what people are willing to offer”.
“The museum will be pan disability, it will include mental health, learning disability, sensory impairments as well as physical disabilities. Most importantly it will include non-visible disabilities too.
“It will cover the social and medical models of disability and legislation, wherever possible, told through real life stories. Not just equipment – anything. Could you imagine if you could find the first case study of the first stairlift that was ever installed or wheelchairs that were built?
“We’ve already got some items in a small collection including a century old wheelchair and a timeline covering over 20 centuries.
“There must be old wicker wheelchairs out there, medical devices, hearing aids and artwork. We would love to have one of the blue three-wheel Invacars at the centre of a display on mobility.”
WDP is applying for funding currently to employ a project manager to oversee the building of a purpose-built facility that could house not only the museum, but WDP’s current Centre for Independent Living.
It would also house a third element – a new design and development hub to be used by equipment designers that would feature innovative, cutting-edge products on display for the public.
The plan is to offer designers and manufacturers the opportunity to exhibit their new equipment for a set period of two or three months and during that period WDP will invite ‘through the internet’ end-users and professionals like OTs to critique and give feedback on the products.
Mr Thompson said: “I’ve seen so many new designs that change after six months or a year because end-users like myself who have purchased the equipment, then come up with suggestions on how it could be improved, which is often too late.
“A design and development technology hub would provide a vital link to designers and the end-users. That would be amazing.
“The ultimate would be – to refer to a quote from Steve Kennedy from NRS Healthcare – the industry should look to design and supply equipment that disabled people actually want and not just need.”
Mr Thompson said: “If we could turn the industry around in that sense then that would be great. The design and development technology hub could be a platform for designs of the future.”
WDP recently launched its Smart Flat Assistive Technology Centre, which is located within the grounds of its Centre for Independent Living.
Mr Thompson said: “The Smart Flat would be included as it features state-of-the-art ideas on accessible and independent living with assistive technology. The flat is currently used by OTs and end-users who want to further understand the scope of the latest products.
The idea for a National Disability Museum has already received endorsement from the likes of the BHTA, British Red Cross and NRS Healthcare.
Mr Thompson added: “I have seen so much progress in the field of disability during the past 29 years since my accident. This includes technological advances in mobility and independent living aids, as well as public awareness and understanding of disability.
“But looking back just 50 to 100 years it is hard to comprehend the struggles that disabled people had to endure. The museum will ensure that the heritage is never forgotten, as a major part of the museum will be educational, working with children and people of all ages.”
If you want to get involved in the development as a sponsor, or you have equipment that could be sold or loaned to the museum, contact Dave Thompson on 01925 240064 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.