RSS

The Bulletin

A simple add-on makes pushing wheelchairs more social

Posting in Design

For her senior thesis, designer Tammy Kalinsky came up with a wheelchair accessory called Side by Side: a simple bar to the side of the wheelchair allows the person in the chair and the person pushing it to actually talk and maintain eye contact. Wired reports.

The design looks deceptively simple. Kalinsky’s first challenge was to make the chair move in a straight line -- and not spin in a circle. Placing the bar near the front of the chair and angling it slightly properly directs the force.

The bigger problem is convincing parents and therapists to trust the work of a design student:

They wanted something that looked safe and reliable, but Kalinsky’s goal was to make the product reflect the youth and vigor of its user, not the cold, sterile look common to most medical devices.

Kalinsky was also keen to give the riders, who often are dealing with severe physical or mental challenges, an easy way to interact with their environment.

  • To help solve those problems, she turned to children’s bicycles for inspiration: they’re “colorful and happy,” she says, “but at the same time very secure and familiar for the parents.”
  • She also mashed up a bicycle horn and headlight to create a device that squeaks when squeezed and lights up when slapped -- which also let’s the rider hone their motor skills.
  • Side by Side was easy to manufacture using traditional processes.
  • Rubber grips, a simple folding mechanism to reduce the physical burden, and the use of hollow metal tubing make the design light and affordable. (The pieces snap together like a Swiffer mop or a garment rack.)

Kalinsky has filed a patent and is looking for investors to help roll it to market.

[Wired]

Image: Tammy Kalinsky Design

— By on September 27, 2013, 4:42 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure