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15th December 2014

The Ferrari of wheelchairs…and the Audi and the Bugatti

Wheelchairs are not sexy. They don’t have to be. They have to be sturdy, and light and easy to manoeuvre.

But maybe wheelchairs could become sleek and classy and stay functional at the same time.That’s what designers from around the world are working on: the Ferraris (and Audis and Lamborghinis) of wheelchairs.

The Ferrari

Creator of Carbon Black (jsut sounds sexy already), Andrew Slorance puts it very simply: “This chair makes me feel good.”

Andrew suffered a spinal cord injury in his early teenage years and has set his mind since to make wheelchairs “less stiff metal and more minimal carbon fibre”.

With Carbon Black he believes he achieved that: “If Formula One were to make a wheelchair, this is what they would make.”

The Audi

Neilson Navarette wanted to create “a fashionable wheelchair”. The Filipino designer was inspired by the car that has become synonym for high-end German technology and design: Audi. The result is something that looks like Audi, as much as it resembles a wheelchair.

“Make a lifestyle product rather than a medical one”

Jack Martinich, a designer graduate from Australia came up with the ultimate foldable light-weight wheelchair: Mobi. It’s as far as you can get from the bulky electric machines available nowadays. Its electric function is a bit different: bypassing the joystick and control panel and using the human element. It generates power from the user pushing down on the handrails.

The nomad

The Nomad  was created by Mark Owen and his brother John in 2007. A wheelchair user himself, Mark felt there was one big issue with wheelchairs today: “It just didn’t feel they represented me as a person or what I wanted to use”

“We wanted to make a lifestyle product rather than a medical one.” Mark told Director Magazine. It seems they’re on the right track.

A sneak peak

Caspar Schmitz’s idea ( so far that’s all it is) seems to be straight from a sci-fi movie: a wheelchair that is able to transform. The wheels can take up an elliptic shape when confronted with an obstacle, like an edge of a sidewalk or a bump in the road.

Like Casper, there are many more designers working on challenging what a wheelchair could be like. With so many disruptive ideas popping up in healthcare from revolutionizing blood tests to building tricorders, why couldn’t the wheelchair be re-invented too?

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Header Photo credit: Tom Wolf/Flickr