Alex Stringer, a former soldier severely injured in Afghanistan, has designed, alongside leading social enterprise Realise Futures who make 100% recycled plastic outdoor furniture, a new picnic bench specifically for people with disabilities.
On Tuesday 11 February, the first of the picnic benches built to the 23-year-old Alex’s design, was presented to Chavasse VC House, the Personnel Recovery Centre based in Colchester, Essex, to be used by recovering armed services personnel.
Alex drew on experience of his own disability to come up with an innovative design which allows wheelchair users to easily access and sit at the bench in comfort alongside abled-bodied people. Eco Furniture, the social business where he works - which is a division of Realise Futures - has a tradition of naming products after the person who designed them, and so it is called ‘The Alex Bench’.
The Alex Bench was presented to Help for Heroes Recovery Centre Manager Steve Schollar by Realise Futures Chief Executive Sarah Sharlott.
Sarah said: “Our organisation is focused on creating opportunities for people to succeed in work, learning and life and Alex’s picnic bench is a clear demonstration of how this works in practice. We are delighted that Alex is working with us and even more pleased that his design has made it in to production and will become part of our product range going to help many of his counterparts recovering. His skills and understanding of the needs of disabled people will now be put to great use in developing more products.”
Steve said: “Alex has inspired us all with his determination to recover, and to share his experiences and challenges with others as he went through the process. The Alex Bench is an inspired piece of design that will greatly enhance the practical and social facilities at Chavasse VC House. We are very grateful to Alex and Eco Furniture for this generous donation.”
Alex spent five years in the Army with the 23 Pioneers Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, and did two tours, one in Cyprus and one in Afghanistan where, at the age of 20, he lost his legs and his forearm as a result of setting off a landmine.
He is included in a photographic tribute to Britain’s injured soldiers by the musician Bryan Adams for a book called ‘Wounded: The Legacy of War’. The book features soldiers who have all cheated death while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Having completed the picnic bench Alex is now working on a new design for a potting bench for Hedley Court where people recovering from their injuries are able to spend time in a therapeutic garden.