For Tanya Nazywalskyj, industrial design is child’s play.
Based on her design for a wheelchair-accessible playground, the Humber grad is now on a shortlist of 50 international competitors – and one of three Canadians – for the prestigious James Dyson Award.
The design competition, which is open to students and recent graduates from 18 countries around the world, offers a €10,000 top prize to a young inventor. Nazywalskyj’s design, called ISO Play, features wheelchair-accessible slides and swings, and has propelled her through more than 700 entries onto the international stage.
But Nazywalskyj, who graduated from Humber’s Industrial Design degree program last spring, says she found her inspiration a little closer to home.
“My sister is eight years younger than me,” she explains. “I would be babysitting, and I had a hard time keeping up with her on the playground. I’m able bodied, but I started to think about how kids in wheelchairs would find most play structures even harder to navigate than I did.”
According to Nazywalskyj, although many playgrounds are nominally accessible, most of them require a paraplegic child to get out of his or her wheelchair to fully participate.
“In a lot of playgrounds, kids in wheelchairs have to get out of their chair and shimmy up the slide on their stomachs,” says Nazywalskyj. “Then they slide down, and a caregiver has to bring them their chair and help put them in it. I wanted to change that. I wanted kids in wheelchairs to be able to interact with able-bodied kids at an equal level.”
That meant developing equipment that allowed paraplegic children to use the play structure while staying in their wheelchairs, rather than depending on a caregiver to help them get in and out.
ISO Play, whose name is taken from the Latin word for “equal,” incorporates a modular slide, a wheelchair “skate-park,” bungee-cord monkey bars, and swings that will attach directly to a wheelchair.
According to Bruce Thomson, one of Nazywalskyj’s advisors and a professor in the industrial design program, an emphasis on social responsibility is a significant part of the program at Humber.
“Good design is about solving real-world problems,” says Thomson. “If you look at the problems of the world today, those are social and environmental issues. That’s what we try to pass on to our students.”
The top 15 international finalists for the 2012 Dyson Award will be announced on October 18, with the grand prize winner and two international runners-up to be announced November 8.