Reinventing the wheel to help disabled.

Article: Elliot, J. (2008). “Reinventing the wheel to help disabled.” BBC NEWS. Visited on 5 September 2008

Summary: Wheelchair wheels are not optimally designed for wheelchair users who must travel. While the wheels may be removed from a folding wheelchair, they do not themselves pack well and must often be checked in on flights or stowed separately from the folded chair in other travel scenarios. Former Royal College of Arts (RCA) student Duncan Fitzsimons designed a folding wheel for bicycles and is modifying the design to work for wheelchair users. His design, which folds the full-sized wheel flat while allowing use of a regular tire and inner tube, gives the wheelchair user the ability to quickly stow their chair when using other modes of transportation.

Conceptual design: Wheelchair wheels must be removed from wheelchairs, even folding models, to be stowed  when traveling. Design a wheel which does not require removal from the chair and significantly reduces the amount of space needed to stow the chair.

Interaction design: The wheel must be large, as this is the key to a wheelchair user’s independence. It should be designed to fit different budgets and performance needs. It must fold flat so it may be stowed where it is readily accessible by the user.

Interface design: The wheel is made of a carbon fiber composite. Six sections of wheel which are articulated at 7 points. The wheel folds along it’s circumference and becomes a flattened oval. The tire and inner tube stretch with the oval and are not removed from the wheel. The spokes are a scissor mechanism which lock into place when expanded (inferred from the image in the article)

Improvements to the design: Duncan could make using standard wheelchair tires and inner tubes an interaction design requirement. This would allow users even greater freedom in selecting tires and inner tubes that work for them. If he has not already done so, he should research the legal requirements for wheelchair wheels in his target markets. Wikipedia is a good source on this:


  1 comment for “Reinventing the wheel to help disabled.

  1. April 30, 2010 at 11:49 am

    There are two primary users of the wheelchair—the “patient” and the caregiver. The caregivers can be semipermanent (parents, friends, doctors, etc.) or one-time (airline personal, cab drivers). The background knowledge of these users will be different and so will their physical abilities (an athlete in a wheelchair is very different from my grandmother and very different from some one with MS or a cognitive impairment (stroke victim)). The support structures of this product has to accommodate all these different users and in very different ways…

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