Wheelchairs aren't used, they are worn
My name’s Rachael, and I want to talk to you about #HackOnWheels.
#HackOnWheels aims to enable all wheelchair users, wherever they are, to access a wheelchair that has been fully customised to meet their individual needs. #HackOnWheels is a movement to create the first ‘open source’ wheelchair.
Crowd-sourced design challenges from wheelchair users will put the user at the heart of the design process. An online library of open source wheelchair designs, with a platform that allows online design collaboration, will drive innovation in the market. A design code for open source wheelchair designs in the online library meanwhile will ensure that designs can be made from standard parts that are easy to obtain, making it cheaper for wheelchair users to repair their wheelchairs.
Wheelchairs need to be designed for the individual
Back in June, when I first introduced #HackOnWheels to this forum, I asked what you would want to change about your wheelchair - "What do you think of your wheelchair? Does it meet your needs?"
We were overwhelmed by your response. Nearly 100 people shared their views and experiences. Your contribution has helped us define the challenges we set designers and to promote great wheelchair design.
Since starting #HackOnWheels, I’ve been struck by the creativity of wheelchair users who’ve participated in our events and forums. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to throughout this journey has shared stories of how they’ve ‘hacked’ their wheelchair to make it a better fit for them, whether by changing the wheels to improve suspension for sport, making new brake pads that fit the shape of their hand or spray-painting the frame to suit their individual style.
What’s become clear is that our wheelchairs are as individual as their users. So much so that I’m not sure ‘user’ is the right word. When you customise a wheelchair to suit you, you don’t ‘use’ a wheelchair, you wear it.
Just like a pair of shoes, a wheelchair needs to be customised to the body, lifestyle and environment of its user (or ‘wearer’) in order to give freedom and independence. Just as someone probably wouldn’t wear high heels to cross a muddy field or climb a mountain, wheelchairs need to be suitable for our environment. And when they’re not, when we can, we ‘hack’ them!
Join us for an afternoon of discussions
On the 21st September, #HackOnWheels will be hosting an afternoon of talks and discussions to explore how we can change perceptions by re-thinking wheelchairs as an extension of the body or as wearable technology, a fashion piece or lifestyle product.
Part of the London Design Festival, the Fix Our Wheels workshop and Fix Our City exhibition will also be launching the #HackOnWheels Manifesto and Student Design Award. If you can make it, simply sign up here.
Tell us about your wheelchair
I’d love to hear from you! Do you see your wheelchair as something you wear? Is it fashionable? Would you like it to be? Do you think of your chair as an extension of your body? Would you like to? Do you see your wheelchair as a lifestyle product like a bike, roller-skates or scooter? Let us know what you think in the comments below or by tweeting (at)HackOnWheels.