Many of us are familiar with using wheelchairs to get around, but far fewer would have any idea of how to design one (I certainly didn’t). We talked to Chris Fowler of Invacare to find out more.

What factors need to be taken into account during the design process?
The number one factor to consider during the design process is to evaluate what has been done
before. Every prototype, every field trial unit and every final production design is evaluated to
understand what can be improved. When designing its essential to consider how things have been approached in the past – both good and bad. Customer feedback is always at the forefront of Invacare’s design process, which ensures that good design can be carried over and improved upon, and ideas that maybe haven’t worked so well can be developed.
Following that it is the final use of the product. How will the final design help to enhance an
individual’s life? How will the design of the product help to overcome any problems that are a result of a disability, and allow a person to focus on the important aspects of their life? It is essential that the final design works with someone and for someone, and not against them.
As long as our designs continue to evolve and improve on what has been done before while at the same time focussing on improving the quality of people’s lives then you can’t go far wrong!

Do you have any favourites among your own designs?
Our new Modulite seating system is the perfect example of improving on what has been offered in the past while offering our customers maximised day long comfort. The stepless settings of the
seating system mean that sizes can be adjusted to produce a 1 to 1 fit for individuals. The levels of adjustment available also mean the settings can be changed as a customer’s needs may change over

What improvements have been made in wheelchair design over the last 20 years?
Materials and aesthetics are the two biggest leaps in design improvement. The use of high end
materials have allowed for products to become much lighter and easier to handle. This is turn means products look a lot more contemporary.

How do you balance aesthetics with function?
The debate about whether “form should follow function” or vice versa is endless in design circles!
Ultimately as a medical device a wheelchair has a function to perform first and foremost. As long as function isn’t compromised there is no reason why good aesthetics cannot be included in the design.

Our TDX2 is a good example of a chair with excellent drive performance both indoors and outdoors, but with superb aesthetics as key aspect of the product’s appeal.

Many thanks to Chris for giving us his insights into the wheelchair design process. See here for more information about Invacare.

Like what you just read? Check out more discussions on bespoken:

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