Front and Rear View of Hospital Wheelchair Designed by Michael Graves

Paralysis Was His Path to Designing a Better Wheelchair

Proof, again, that necessity is the mother of invention—especially when it comes to wheelchairs!

An Avant Garde Chair Designed by Michael Graves

An Ultra-Modern Chair Design by Michael Graves

Michael Graves is an architect and furniture designer who is responsible for high-concept, commercial chairs that are featured at such retailers as Target, Arkitectura, J.C. Penney, and Kron USA. His furniture includes patio chairs, lounge chairs, stacking chairs, and others. You could say that Graves is something of an expert on chairs. However, he’d never tackled one like the Prime TC before. It took some serious inspiration to spark his creativity.

 The Prime TC Wheelchair for Hospitals

This chair, with its folding armrests and footrests, its washable fabric and ergonomic design, is not available at the local mall retailer. At moment, the wheelchair is found only in hospitals.

Graves began work on the chair after a sinus infection, of all things, left him paralyzed from the chest down in 2003. After spending three years recuperating and rehabbing in eight different hospitals, Graves had learned a great deal about the limitations of hospital facilities. He wasn’t able to reach low electrical outlets or high faucets. Portable toilets and dirty bedside tables added to the problems.

Michael Graves, Architect and Designer of the Patient-Friendly Wheelchair

“It doesn’t make you feel very good when everything around you says ‘sick,'” Graves said. “It was far too ugly for me to die in there.”

Graves struggled to recover, and he then shifted his entire design business. He says that a quarter of his business is now dedicated to the healthcare field.

Graves Works with Hospital Administrators to Design New Hospital Interior

“I’ve been in enough rooms that are pretty close to the Third World that I knew it wasn’t working, but I didn’t know why,” Graves said. “The equipment was old, the plans were bad, the chance for infection was great, the chance for falls was terrific.”

The Prime TC, released in 2013, is a wheelchair that is designed specifically for hospital use, as opposed to current wheelchairs which are the same as most of those used at home. Graves points out that the current models were designed in 1933 when FDR was in office. “When the seat gets old and tired, it rests on that armature underneath. It’s extremely hard on the patients.”

The Prime TC Wheelchair in Use in a Hospital

The Prime TC is more of a transport chair, with a design that supports hospital workers in moving and accommodating patients who have to sit for a long time. Says Graves, “Comfort becomes a very important issue in your wellness.

His design features swinging footrests, curving handles for any height of caregiver, holders for both an oxygen tank and IV systems, and a simple and effective brake system. It’s stylish as well, and able to be power washed. The chair has won multiple awards, including the 2014 Red Dot Best of the Best Award in Life Science and Medicine. Graves continues to design for the hospital environment.

Michael Graves Designs Attractive, Ergonomic Furniture for Hospital Rooms

The 79-year-old Graves says, “I’m going to do as many of these as I can before I croak.”

The first short video is a demonstration of the wheelchair. The longer second video is a presentation by Michael Graves, who discusses why and how he’s approaching healthcare product design from a unique perspective. Would Graves’ wheelchair design for hospitals work well in your home?


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