Upasana Sonigra
23rd December 2018

The Wheelchair- A History

When we take a look at the incredible technology which is available to us today and is in the process of being developed for our future generations, the wheelchair has come a long way. Even further than you could imagine. Let’s delve into the past and see how those less mobile, would have coped thousands of years ago.

The Wheelchair History

It’s 200AD in China. You’re struggling to get around due to mobility problems, but you still need to go out and work to support your family. Cue the invention of the oldest documented wheelchair- The Chinese Wheelbarrow. This simple invention was great to transport people but relied on servants or family members to push you around.

King Phillip II of Spain decided to commission a chair especially for him in his old age. “The Invalid Chair” was a reclining chair on wheels, with an adjustable back and footrest, meaning the King could be taken around his beautiful Palaces and Gardens.

A disabled German Watchmaker was our next inventor. Stephan Farffler created a 3 wheeled chair, which was self propelled by the use of a handle attached to the front wheel. A brilliant invention, but rather tiring across long distances.

Spa Towns were all the rage in Victorian Britain- especially Bath. People would visit to take the waters for their healing properties. The Bath Chair was created for those living in such towns, to be able to get out and about. These beautiful chairs included cushions, hoods, foot rests and some had glass screens, but would need to be pulled by hand or by a donkey or horse.

1933 sees the creation of the standard wheelchair that we all recognise. The Fold-able Wheelchair was lightweight and could fit into cars. Due to these features, this wheelchair because very popular world wide. It is now the basis of all modern wheelchairs, thanks to its inventor- Harry Jennings of Los Angeles, whose friend was disabled in a mining accident.

With the introduction of Electricity came numerous devices that made our lives easier. One being the Electric Wheel Chair, which wasn’t mass produced until recently, despite being worked on in the earlier 20th Century. Speeds had to be limited and controls tightened, to prevent a hair-raising ride.

In 2003 the inventor of the Segway came up with the idea of the iBOT. This 4 wheeled chair could stand upright and raiser the user off the ground to travel across a variety of terrain, even up steps, using the Gyro that is similar in the Segway, which meant it was hard to push over. This, unfortunately, has become discontinued.

The current day sees a range of Wheelchairs, many based on the original 1933 foldable chair, lightweight and compact, utilising numerous materials such as Carbon Fibre to make for sleek, comfortable rides. Power Chairs that are created to the users needs and include features such as GPS and health monitors. The name of the game when it comes to Wheelchairs in this era, is customisation.

You can find a huge range of wheelchairs are Change Mobility on Kings Road, Harrogate.

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