Disability charity’s new CEO on a mission to use good design to create a better, more inclusive world

February 9, 2024

Designability, the Bath-based charity that enables disabled people to live with greater independence through well-designed products, has appointed a leading digital and tech entrepreneur as its new CEO. 

Jim Bowes, pictured, has more than 20 years’ experience as a founder, leader and consultant in a wide range of start-ups, commercial, public sector and not-for-profit organisations. 

In a diverse and varied career, he has been an Ibiza DJ and tea room owner, worked in a range of roles in organisations from start-ups to Barclays and Cancer Research UK, and founded and scaled his own digital agency.

Designability began life in 1968 as the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering and has since helped more than 300,000 disabled children and adults live with greater independence. 

It is best known for its iconic Wizzybug powered wheelchairs for very young disabled children. To date, they have been loaned to more than 1,300 children, typically aged between 14 months and five years. 

Jim said his primary interest was in the relationship between people, creativity and technology and how these work together to shape and change lives.

“Designability is at the forefront of using user-centred design practices to create products and services that improve disabled people's lives. I’m delighted to be joining at this important moment in the delivery of its strategy,” he added.

“I believe that good design can create a better, more inclusive world. I look forward to using the full range of my experience to help the organisation deliver even greater impact.”

Jim is also a charity trustee, holding roles with both Asthma + Lung UK and The Hub, Yeovil, which works with adults with learning disabilities and autism and where he has been hands-on in developing a new user-centred three-year strategy. 

Jim has succeeded Designability’s former CEO Catharine Brown, who stepped down last September after four years in the post.

Designability chair of trustees Jerry Marwood said: “We were impressed by Jim’s achievements, personal values and his thoughtful approach to the role of Designability CEO. 

“We believe that he has the drive, experience and personal qualities to carry forward the ambitious strategy set in place by Catharine, and to lead the charity to achieve our vision – a future where disabled people live the life they choose."

Jim’s agency Manifesto, which he founded and scaled before selling, focussed on delivering transformative digital experiences for not-for-profit, cultural, health, housing, education and purpose driven commercial organisations.

It worked with national charities such as the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, RSPCA, Cancer Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society and GOSH Children’s Charity.

Designability believes the principles of user-centred or person-centred design are fundamental to its work and, by listening to disabled people, it designs innovative products and services that enable disabled children and adults to live with greater independence.


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