The World Health Organization reports that about 15 percent of the world’s people live with some form of disability. That’s well over 1 billion people at the present population. With the average life expectancy continuing to increase globally, the United Nations cites that the higher risk of disability in older people will lead to an even higher ratio of people affected by disability. Stats aside, everyone becomes less and less independent at some point.
Fortunately, mobility design is ripe for innovation, which could potentially provide this segment of the population with full and equal participation in all aspects of life. With better mobility, people can not only increasingly fulfill their potential in the workplace but also extend their independence and well-being into old age. Here are six promising innovations in mobility design.
1. WHILL Personal Electric Vehicle Brings Independence and Style to Personal Mobility
WHILL was inspired by a wheelchair user who was active and social but felt like people saw him as “a guy who has a disability and needs help.” He eventually stopped going outside and participating in activities he once enjoyed. WHILL explores technologies such as generative design to develop smarter designs for lightweight personal electric vehicles that empower users with greater mobility and style.
2. Scewo Crosses a Segway With a Tank
Scewo Bro is a self-balancing wheelchair that can go up and down stairs independently and smoothly. The Swiss art and tech students who designed Scewo Bro have shown that the wheelchair’s tanklike rubber tracks can climb almost any staircase, no matter how steep. Watch this video to see it in action.
3. Sesame Access Staircases Transform Into Wheelchair Lifts
UK-based engineer Charlie Lyons was at a pub with a friend when he realized how difficult it must have been for his friend’s wife to navigate an urban environment in a wheelchair. So he started Sesame Access, which has designed and built more than 100 stairway systems that offer access to places such as shops, recreation facilities, office buildings, and homes that were inaccessible before.
4. Superstar Is the “World’s Lightest Wheelchair”
Swiss company Küschall claims to make the world’s lightest wheelchair using graphene material, a form of carbon made up of a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms. Graphene is currently the strongest material known to humanity. Due to its lightweight properties, it also promises to prevent arm fatigue and injury to wheelchair users, who commonly develop upper-extremity ailments.
5. Robo-Trousers Will Give the Elderly a Boost
British engineers are working on Robo-Trousers—pants with plastic bubbles inside that can inflate to mimic artificial muscles and help people stand up and sit down. These trousers could help the elderly and disabled stay mobile, allowing them to live independently longer.
6. Cart Wheelchair DIY Repurposes Shopping Carts
Despite being a prominent mode of transportation for the elderly, disabled, and bedridden, wheelchairs can be very expensive. Cart Wheelchair DIY is a wheelchair made from secondhand shopping carts to become a helping tool for the physically disabled and elderly, as well as patients who can’t afford an ordinary chair. The cart can be modified to provide more comfort—for example, adding a small basket, seat cushion, or hand brake.