This week is International Wheelchair Day (March 1st) so we thought we’d take a look back at the history of wheelchairs.
The earliest record of wheeled furniture dates all the way back to ancient times, but it wasn’t until 1595 that the first wheelchair was invented. It was designed for King Phillip II of Spain, so it had an elaborate design but lacked the ability to be self-propelled.
Seventy years later Stephan Farffler, a 22-year-old German watchmaker with disability, became the first person to invent a self-propelled wheelchair.
In 1750, James Heath invented a wheelchair named after the town of Bath. Looking more like a fancy carriage than a wheelchair, it quickly grew in popularity.
In 1887, ‘rolling chairs’ similar to wheelchairs were introduced in Atlantic City so tourists with disability could enjoy the Boardwalk. However, many people without disability rented the wheelchairs and hired servants to push them around, as a show of decadence.
Rolling chairs still exist on the Boardwalk today; however, after many people pretended to be disabled, they can now be used by everyone.
The first electric-powered wheelchair was invented by Canadian inventor, George Klein, to assist injured veterans after WWII.
Wheelchairs have advanced a long way since then! Designs have improved in size, comfort and technology.
Toyota is currently remaking the iBot, a futuristic wheelchair that can rise up onto two wheels and travel up and down stairs.
In 2016, Diwakar Vaish, a robotic researcher in his early 20s, developed the first brain controlled wheelchair, which uses the brain’s electrical impulses to move the wheelchair.
The future possibilities for wheelchair designs are endless!
Many Australians who need wheelchairs will now be able to get funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
While we can’t promise you a futuristic stair climbing wheelchair, we can help you find the perfect wheelchair to suit your needs.
The Tipping Foundation is an approved NDIS service provider. Our team can provide support coordination and help link you to professionals who specialise in finding the right wheelchair for you.