Lightweight Wheelchairs: Pushing the Boundaries of Contemporary Design.


Since the earliest days of mankind, one of the most endearing qualities which has set us apart from all other life on earth, is the ability and desire to care for those less fortunate than ourselves, and to utilise the means at our disposal to afford them the quality of living most are accustomed to. No other example better exemplifies this ingenuity than the advent of the wheelchair. Wheelchairs, in their most rudimentary form, have been found dating back as early as 4th century BC - although the first ever wheelchair predates records. But since as long as humans have been able to craft tools, they have been using them to assist those less abled, and through history the design and craft of chairs has adapted to the tools and materials available, and continues to do so. 

Chairs through the ages 
Early, self-propelled wheelchairs which form the basis of what are commonplace today, first emerged in Europe around the early days of the 17th century, when German inventor Johann Hautsch created a range of rolling chairs to aid the disabled. Hautsch’s design was furthered in the latter part of 1750, by English inventor James Heath constructed the ‘Bath Chair’ - named after the town of Bath, from which he hailed. The Bath Chair was instrumental in shaping the design of contemporary wheelchairs as it was the first of its kind to feature two large wheels at the back of the chair, and two smaller ones at the front - the benchmark of what is commonplace today. As time progressed, scientists and inventors continued to make use of the materials available to them to further the design and durability of wheelchairs. Another pivotal point in the design of wheelchairs as we know them, came about in 1972 after the advent of tubular steel. Harry C. Jennings, and American mechanical engineer created the first collapsible chair using tubular steel which was revolutionary as it not only greatly improved the storage capacity of the chairs, but also vastly reduced the chairs overall weight - which steered the design towards the lightweight chairs which today are found the world over. 

Take a load off 
Lightweight wheelchairs, such as the ones avoidable from Karma Mobility truly are the product of decades worth of innovation and ingenuity. With models such as the Ergo Lite 2 Ultralight Transit Wheelchair weighing just 8.7 kg, whilst retaining a durability level able to withstand up to 100kg of user weight, they are the pinnacle of modern wheelchair design. Chairs such as the Ergo Lite 2 also feature arm and footrests, all of which - along with the chair - can be fully collapsed to maximise storability. Whilst chairs such as these are at forefront of design and innovation today, scientist and inventors across the globe are constantly employing the use of new and groundbreaking technologies to ever further the potential of the chairs and help users combat contemporary issues presented within society. Just recently, scientists launched the first ever self-propelled ‘user powered mobility scooter’ called the RoScooter, which is a three wheeled mobility scooter that is operated by a push-pull propulsion system. This demonstrates that the design of mobility chairs is ever evolving, as science continues to push the boundaries of biomechanical efficiency.

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