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20 June 2008 PR 08/86

Loughborough lecturer on the winning team in 48-hour design challenge
Loughborough University Design and Technology lecturer George Torrens was part of an inter-university team of designers that clinched first place in a new design challenge.

Lecturers and researchers from the UK’s top design universities were brought together in the unique 48 hour co-design challenge, which was organised by the Audi Design Foundation – an established charity that supports inclusive and sustainable design.

The event paired up design experts and service users of Leonard Cheshire Disability, the UK’s leading disability charity, to develop a gardening solution that could be applied to any of the charity’s 150 care home services and day centres around the country to enhance the experience for their service users.

The winning team – comprising lecturers from five universities and services users of Leonard Cheshire Disability – developed a variety of imaginative garden tools, including an innovative rotating planter which can be easily operated from a wheelchair.

Reflecting on the challenge, George Torrens said: “It was a demanding 48 hours of activity, but it was satisfying that the process our team used was the same user-centric, evidenced-based approach we advocate to our own design students.”Rebecca Edge, Manager of the Audi Design Foundation, commented:  “This is the first time such a project has been undertaken – it’s an opportunity for university lecturers to lay the foundation for new methods of instruction, which highlight the need for inclusive design in everyday products.” 

She added: “What is very appropriate about the Masterclass’ winning solution is that the products can be used not only by those with disabilities but also able bodied users.”
There are currently almost 10 million disabled people in the UK with an estimated purchasing power of around £80 billion, and yet many of the innovative designs that fill our homes and places of work and pleasure are either exclusionary or require specialist adaptations to be used by disabled people.
“Many of the barriers disabled people face today are the result of bad design in the past, so it makes sense for us to team up with the Foundation to bring together designers and disabled people and hopefully inspire tutors and students to think differently about the way they design,” said Mark Bishop, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Leonard Cheshire Disability.
The unique opportunity to bring designer and end user together made a positive impression on everyone involved. “The time we’ve spent with the teams has been a real eye-opener for us,” said Leonard Cheshire Disability disabled volunteer Stuart Fordham.  “We didn’t realise just how much is involved in designing ordinary objects. It’s been great to feel we’ve been an important part of that process.”

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Notes for editors:

1. The members of the winning team were:

George Torrens - Loughborough University
Stuart Fordham - Leonard Cheshire Disability
James Fathers - York St John University
Stuart Ward - Warwick University
Wendy Mayfield - Leeds Metropolitan University
Meredith Carter - University of Creative Arts

2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

In the 2007 National Student Survey, the University was voted fourth in the UK, with 23 out of 29 of Loughborough’s subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. Loughborough is also ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national league tables. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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