Customisation gives us choice and comfort in almost every area of our lives; yet when it comes to wheelchairs, millions of people around the world are still stuck with clunky designs that do not fit their body shape, lifestyle, environment, or style.
With traditional manufacturing, the cost of customised design is often prohibitive. It’s estimated that 8 of every 10 people who need a wheelchair can’t access one that meets their needs. Even when they can, having a single customised wheelchair is like only having one pair of shoes; it really limits what you can do and where you can go.
Disrupt disability is using parametric design, digital fabrication and distributed manufacture to make affordable wheelchairs that you can continually customise.
Founder Rachael Wallach was inspired by a trip to Jordan in December 2015, where she saw a fully customised prosthetic hand created using 3D printing, for a cost of just $39. On her return to Europe, she started organising hackathons to explore how modern manufacturing techniques could be used to build better wheelchairs.
The results were promising; at the first hackathon, they scanned a participant’s body, and created a highly personalised seat and backrest using a CNC milling machine. Participants wanted more, they wanted to be able to continually adapt their wheelchair for their changing needs.
Disrupt disability has made the first modular wheelchair system. You can customise your wheelchair by swapping in different modules. It’s as easy as putting on a different pair of shoes. They’re now creating modules for sand, snow and even fashion seats.
Rachael wants to disrupt attitudes and perceptions too, starting with ditching the term ‘wheelchair user’. Instead, she wants people to think of a wheelchair like a pair of glasses - something we wear that is both a medical device and a fashion accessory.