Take a load off. Contemporary, lightweight wheelchair design

Take a load off. Contemporary, lightweight wheelchair design

Helping hands

The earliest recorded wheelchair has been found to date back as early as 4th century BC, although in reality, their existence predates all records. For as long as less-able bodied people have been around, so has some form of aid to assist them. It is this notion, of taking the materials and resources available to us and utilising them to aid those in need, that is one of humanity’s most endearing qualities. No other invention more acutely encompasses this desire to assist, than that of the wheelchair. Indeed, it could be argued, that this aid is one of the founding principles of what makes us human. Wheelchairs as we know them only came to be from decades of design and innovation, trial and error. Whilst we have managed to create modern lightweight wheelchairs that increase the well-being of others far beyond what previous chairs could have, today scientists and inventors continue to further advance designs to cater for the ever-changing needs of contemporary living.

Rolling with the times

The first self-propelled wheelchair – similar to ones which are commonplace today – first emerged in Europe around the start of the 17th century when German-born inventor Johann Hautsch created a range of various rolling chairs to assist the disabled. Hautsch’s designs were crude and rudimentary by today’s standards and lacked comfort for users. Another German who steered the way in wheelchair design was disabled watchmaker Stephan Farfler, who created a three-wheeled chair which was operated by the use of a rotary handle at the front. Farfler’s design was then furthered in 1770, by English inventor James Heath, who created the first chair with two large wheels at the back, and two smaller wheels at the front – which is today the standard design format for modern wheelchairs. Over the next century, the design of the wheelchair continued to change and adapt to the materials available at that time – and it wasn’t until 1932 that the next pivotal moment in the chairs’ design came to pass. This change came about through the advent of tubular steel being incorporated into the design of the chair by disabled American mining engineer Herbert A. Everest, and another American engineer Harry C. Jennings. Their design was the first to feature the cross-frame, collapsable features which are a benchmark in contemporary design. Tubular steel, and the ability to collapse the chair not only vastly boosted its storability, but also rapidly decreased i’s overall weight – which paved the way for the lightweight chairs that are popular today.

Lightweight chairs

Contemporary, super lightweight wheelchairs, such as the Ergo Lite Ultralight Wheelchair Transit available from online retailers across the globe, such as Karma Mobility, are the byproduct of generations of design and innovation. These chairs have the capacity to withstand upwards of 100 kg worth of user weight, whilst weighing just under 8.5kg. Additionally, to this impressive weight to pressure ratio, the Ergo Lite Ultralight Wheelchair also features fixed arm and foot rests and a fully foldable frame, to maximise its storage capacity. Chairs such as these are at the forefront of modern wheelchair designs that are avoidable on the market, however scientists and inventors are continuing to push the boundaries in chair design, and who know where they will take it in the future?