A Wheelchair with Softwheels

Wheelchair Users Can Go Down Stairs with New Invention

Staircases are one of the biggest mobility challenges faced by the severely disabled, particularly those who use a wheelchair. Here in the U.S. the Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes this to such an extent that accessibility ramps are required for businesses by law. Ramps, while far from a perfect solution, have been a necessity for wheelchair users to gain access to and mobility within homes and businesses.

This may now be changing.

The Softwheel

A new technology from the Israel-based SoftWheel company will overcome this long-running obstacle, says CEO Daniel Bar-El. The technology consists of a new type of wheel, which has built-in shock absorbers that reduce and can essentially eliminate the impact from dropping down stairs, traversing uneven streets, sidewalks. boardwalks, and rough terrain. In addition, the internal mechanism of the technology vastly improves maneuverability of the chair.

The device was first conceived four years ago, when inventor Gilad Wolf suffered a major hip injury after a fall. He was forced to use a wheelchair for three weeks to get around. “At some point,” he says, “I thought up the idea of incorporating airbags. It’s worked out very nicely.”

A Graphic Shows How Shock Absorbers Operate as Wheelchair Goes Down a Stair

The SoftWheel technology is designed so that it remains stable on normal floors and other smooth surfaces, but shifts to utilize an active response technology to overcome obstacles, wherein the shock absorbers on the wheel hub expand or contract based on the level of shock encountered, maintaining forward motion where the shock would normally slow down the chair. The shock absorbers also allow the vehicle to bob similar to shocks and struts in an automobile.

A Man in a Wheelchair with Softwheels Prepares to Go Down a Flight of Stairs

Currently, the technology is designed only for use in wheelchairs, bicycles, and landing gear for aircraft, but in the future there are plans to implement the technology in other wheeled vehicles and to even develop product lines that will allow wheelchair users and others with mobility issues to exit their cars without the need for a ramp.

The device is currently being rolled into the market, and the company has received the backing of the Rad BioMed Accelerator group in collaboration with the Ziv-Av Engineering group, allowing for widespread distribution.

Softwheels Keep This Wheelchair from Bouncing as It Goes Down Stairs

It’s an exciting prospect! Since the first wheelchair was invented for King Philip II of Spain in 1595, the need for ramps to achieve mobility for wheelchair users is going to see significant reduction—who would have thought that, one day, curbs and stairs would present no problem for people confined to wheelchairs? The video shows how these amazing wheels work going down stairs. No word on the product’s performance going up stairs. Still, these wheels are a giant leap forward. Is this a “wheel” good idea? Let us know!

Sources:
algemeiner.com/2014/02/19/israeli-invention-helps-wheelchair-users-go-down-stairs-video/
greenprophet.com/2014/02/softwheel-uses-inner-suspension-arms-to-re-invent-the-wheel-for-bikes-and-chairs-video/

Image Sources:
softwheel.co.il
shalomlife.com
youtube.com
drorque.com

6 thoughts on “Wheelchair Users Can Go Down Stairs with New Invention

  1. clamm809@bellsouth.net'Charlotte Lamm

    This is awesome. I have MS and am in and out of the chair. When in, I have no way of getting to basement or upstairs. Upstairs is ok; it’s guest quarters and grandchildrens’ play room. Basement, I have all my goodies stored, crafts not completed, pictures I’m working on, a chrch bench I am painting!! I need to get down there. We have been thinking about one of those seats attached to stairway. I love your concept for everywhere. Usually I take my compact scooter and find ramps. How does one get back up? Are these wheels adaptable to common wheel chairs. Keep up the great thinking and innovations. A fan for sure. Charlotte

    1. Susan Hawkins

      Hi, Charlotte! The good news is the wheels, which tentatively will cost $1,500 for a set of two, are adaptable to most standard wheelchairs. On the downside, there’s not a great upside. Apparently, what goes down easily won’t necessarily go UP the same way. Here’s what SoftWheel says: The Acrobat (our wheel for wheelchairs) provides suspension. As it is based on our novel technology of In-Wheel Selective & Symmetric suspension, the wheel doesn’t know if it is going up or down the stairs/curb. It is symmetric, hence, it will absorb evenly all around. Since we do not provide wheelchairs users with the power to go down the stairs/curb as it is all done by gravitation, we do not provide the power to go up the stairs.” Let’s hope they’re working on a way to get these wheels to be as helpful going up as they are going down!

  2. lawson33313@yahoo.com'Mark Lawson

    It looks great, but, can children,grandmothers use it to stay stable with chair in the air what about staircases 3 or more stories high. My invention lets you use your wheelchair any brand to get down staircases on your own accord under a minute. It’s called HELP handy emergency layout plank. Anybody can use it. You will be hearing more about it soon.

    1. Susan Hawkins

      Hi, Mark! Your invention sounds interesting. Let us know when you take it to market, and we’ll let our readers know about it. Thanks for following our blog!

  3. roy@wheelchairramprentals.com'Roy Dickan

    Mark,

    We absolutely love your product and would be interested in marketing it in the U.S. We could sell complete wheelchairs or wheels that we could install on wheelchair frames.

    We could also maintain and repair the products.

    Please let us know when your products will be available and how we can be of help.

    Roy

  4. Cajonbeats.ap@gmail.com'Annabelle

    Where can I purchase a pair of these and how much are they? Are you able to ship to the Isle of Man?

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