Today we look into the change wheelchairs have already seen, and what the future will bring.
The humble wheelchair certainly has seen some changes since it first made the news, the earliest record of the wheelchair in England dates from the 1670s and they have progressed ever since.
Wheelchairs have not only got smaller and more accessible but the technology has progressed enabling the production of Powered Wheelchairs for less able-bodied people.
The Powered Wheelchair or Powerchair has dedicated batteries and an electric motor built into the frame that is controlled by the user, most commonly via a joystick mounted onto the armrest.
The technology built in made for a much heavier wheelchair, for users wanting to travel the lightweight manual wheelchair was still the best option.
In recent times we have seen a surge in Ultra-Light Powerchairs that offer the versatility of an electric motor whilst keeping the overall weight to a minimum. A fine example of this is the Zinger Powered Chair, an ingenious solution that offers users an alternative to the once conventional Wheelchair.
Clever features include the ability to fold the wheelchair whilst not in use or for transport and storage, a rather zippy 6mph top speed and an integrated Li-ion battery that takes just 4 hours to fully charge.
Powerchairs are becoming more intelligent, much lighter and enjoyable to use.
So, what might we see in the future of Wheelchairs?
We are already seeing the true potential on how Powerchairs will progress, SMART Powerchairs are a recent development using a computer operated control system to replace user control.
This groundbreaking technology focuses on users living with severe motor disabilities or cognitive impairments such as dementia allowing them to operate the chair with a touch sensitive display.
Collision-avoidance technology built-in ensures that the user does not accidentally select a drive command that could potentially result in a collision.
Another recent development is a variation on the Manual Wheelchair. The Leveraged Freedom Chair has been designed to be a low-cost solution constructed with local materials for users in developing countries.
Tested already in both India and Kenya the hand-controlled levers enable the user to move the chair over uneven ground such as dirt roads common in developing countries.
Powerchairs will become smaller and lighter improving maneuverability.
The TEK Robotic Mobilization Device is a concept that is just 14 inches wide and 24 inches long allowing the user to move whilst in a standing position. The increased mobility enables users to get through the smallest doors and to reach items they wouldn’t be able to in a seated position.
The developments of the technology in Powerchairs may also provide improved transportation options.
The PUMA is an ingenious concept that would allow for the user to travel farther distances. Designed originally to travel a distance of 35 miles in just one charge this has recently been increased to 50 miles once developed. The PUMA & similar models could also feature GPS, smart device integration and even parking information.
Powerchair users will have more independence, increased mobility and easier access to technology.
The Future is certainly looking bright in Tomorrows World.