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Folding wheels for wheelchairs

We like to keep up to date on all things wheelchairs and show particular interest in new technology that may affect us in the coming years. So it was with particular interest when i read about folding wheelchair wheels and how they may just become a mainstream option for everyday wheelchair users who travel frequently.

SO why would a folding wheelchair wheel be of benefit? the main reason is the ability to stow the wheels with ease in overhead lockers in aircraft or other areas in public transport where space is restricted. The overhead locker option is very attractive as it would mean that the wheelchair could remain in the cabin where it is secure and not be put in the airplane hold where it could become damaged.

This has all come about as a result of hard work from one man who also created foldable wheels for bicycles manufactured by Morph wheels. "This is the first foldable wheelchair wheel," says Kathleen Hanek, product management Director at Morph Wheels. "It's all about making things easier and increasing accessibility for wheelchair users" she says.

I think there is also a profit driven motif here somewhere as the early inference is that a pair of these folding wheelchair wheels will cost something in the region of £800.

Currently the folding wheels are a little heavy and weight approximately double what a standard wheelchair wheel does due to their construction using solid rubber tyres rather than pneumatic. But as we all know, solid tyres have their benefits and are not prone to punctures !

Early feedback from wheelchair users is very positive - "I've never seen anything like them," says Bob Vogel, a paraplegic wheelchair user who writes for the New Mobility magazine owned by the United Spinal Association. "I love the innovation. I don't see your average user taking the time to fold a wheel to get it into a car," he says. "If it takes an extra 20 seconds per wheel, that's a lot of time."

Of course like many great inventions it took a British designer to get the concept off the ground and this all started with work by a British designer called Duncan Fitzsimmons.  After receiving enquiries from us folk in the wheelchair community, he eventually decided to teamed up with Maddak and redesigned the bicycle wheels for use on wheelchairs.

The design process consulted a number of wheelchair users in a focus group to ensure that a practical design was born and that the end result was a truly usable product that would benefit wheelchair users in their everyday lives. As a result, the design was named the top design in the transportation industry in 2013 by the London Museum of Design.

"The trick was to create a wheel that wasn't just a folding wheel," Hanek says. "It needs to act and feel just like a normal wheel when it's unfolded."

It would be fantastic to see the price of these folding wheelchair wheels come down to an affordable price so that they could be made available for more wheelchair users before too long.