Wheelchair accessory puts caregives alongside
Industrial designer Tammy Kalinsky has come up with a simple yet ingenious accessory for the wheelchair which allows a friend, relative or caregiver to push the chair while walking beside rather than behind it.
Called Side by Side, the device is designed to enable eye contact to encourage conversation.
Wired reports that a fundamental hurdle to overcome was modifying the design so as to avoid the wheelchair simply turning on the spot when pushed. Kalinsky's solution was to place the handlebar to the front of the wheelchair, and have it angled slightly inwards
Kalinsky says she has taken inspiration from the bicycle, incorporating both a horn and a flashlight into the design to foster interactivity and communication. The device can also be folded to fit into the rear pocket of the chair.
According to Wired, Kalinsky is now seeking funding to bring her patent-pending design to market.
Sources: Tammy Kalinsky, Wired
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More seriously though, is that when operated on a side slope or uneven ground, the device would effectively act as a lever, applying massive amounts of torque to one side of the wheelchair frame, at a point which is simply not designed to take high torque loading. which would risk damaging the chair, or causing the operator to lose control. As an ex-careworker, I have pushed manual wheelchairs for many miles over the years, and know how easily damaged they are. Due to their low speed, they don't have much kinetic energy, and tend to stop dead on flat or uphill surfaces when obstructed, especially when you can't see what is causing the obstruction if on the opposite side to the carer. On downhill sections, there is considerable inertia to overcome, which could mean excessive force applied to the lever.
Good concept, but needs work, and ideally, a specially designed chair that is reinforced to take this modification.