Limerick woman’s winning design makes wheelchair travel easier

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Corbally designer Ciara Crawford at the European Product Design awards in Budapest.
Corbally designer Ciara Crawford at the European Product Design awards in Budapest.

A CORBALLY woman who put her mind to making life easier for travelling wheelchair users has been named Emerging Product Designer of the Year in the transportation and aerospace category at this year’s European Product Design Awards.

Ciara Crawford, who was presented with her award at a ceremony in Budapest last week, wanted to make it possible for wheelchair users to have “an enjoyable and dignified flight experience.”

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She explained that she applied design principles to produce the Row 1 airport wheelchair system, a concept designed to enable passengers “use one seat from the airport check-in desk, to the aircraft, to their destination, minimising the frustration of seat transfers.”

Ciara’s battery-powered wheelchair can be booked ahead of the passenger’s flight, and once at the airport they can transfer into the wheelchair, remaining in the chair until they reach their destination.

The wheelchair is then adapted in the aircraft cabin to fit around existing aircraft seats.

The process is quick and simple, eliminating the concerns passengers have of being watched while boarding and being lifted by crew members into their seats.

“The Row 1 wheelchair makes the process of travelling easier and quicker for the passenger and for the airlines,” said Ciara.

“After spending some time working as a concept developer for an aircraft company, and noticing the lack of focus on accessibility in the aircraft industry, I was inspired to design the Row 1 concept, with an aim of bringing independence and accessibility to a minority of passengers, who may otherwise be overlooked.”

Ciara graduated from the University of Limerick with a degree in Product Design and Technology and the Row 1 concept was her final year project.

After graduation, she worked with Chicago design company Conjure Inc. where she designed a new furniture range which is now in production.

The Product Design Award, in partnership with the European Parliament, recognises the efforts of talented designers who aim to improve our daily lives with a practical and beautiful creation, designed to solve a problem and make life easier.

The European Product Design Awards are open to designers from all over the world with entries from more than 60 countries.