Did you know that the WHO or the World Health Organisation estimates that over 65 million people worldwide need a wheelchair and yet 80% of them, that's about 52 million cannot afford a suitable wheelchair or one customised to their needs.
That is where we mention Rachael Wallach and her plans to change this by making an online library of free, open-source designs and instructions for making wheelchairs available to all. She has created an enterprise called Disrupt Disability and her manifesto reads :We are creating wheelchairs that are affordable, modular and fully customisable" simple as that !
Not only is the initiative about getting more wheelchairs available but also emphasis on wheelchair personalisation right from sizing and positioning but also accessories and style with one of their shouts being "We are proud of the wheels we wear - Our wheels will be unique. As beautiful, fashionable and individual as we are" which syas an awful lot about the passion behind this wheelchair project.
So far the project is attracting all manner of interest. In early 2017 there is a wheelchair design competition hosted by the Royal Society of Arts and sponsored by the Global Disability Innovation Hub where students are challenged to design visionary, customisable, user-centered wheelchairs for their library of open source designs.
The brief for this is as follows:
- Want Your Wheels: Changing perceptions of wheelchairs and wheelchair users. How can a wheelchair be an extension of the body, an item of fashion, or wearable technology? How can wheelchairs be desirable, aspirational lifestyle products?
- Wear Your Wheels:
Designing a modular wheelchair. How can we develop a modular system of interchangeable customizable wheelchair parts that will give users maximum choice and control over their wheelchair? How can a modular system enable users to tailor their wheelchair to their body, lifestyle and environment?
Disrupt Disability has also been named by nominet Trust, the UK’s leading tech for good funder as part of their celebration of 100 inspirational social innovations for 2016 of rit s work describing them as "applying digital fabrication and distributed manufacturing (for example, manufacturing in makerspaces) to wheelchairs, giving wheelchair users choice and control over the form and function of their wheels".
One of the key things that inspired Rachel to start Disrupt Disability was het time travelling in South East Asia in her wheelchair. During her time there she noticed early on that she had hardly seen any other wheelchair users, and no one else was wheeling themselves. it was this that prompted her to get some informative data together to see just what was the worldwide shortage of wheelchairs.
We will be looking in to this initiative more in the coming future and tracking the progress of this wonderful startup and its progress in making wheelchairs more accessible.