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The evolution of the wheelchair

The evolution of the wheelchair

For many of our customers the wheelchair is fundamental part of their everyday life. No longer just a means of transport, the stability and manoeuvrability of the wheelchair means that the less abled members of our community can enjoy an active social life, travel to different and every day places, and most importantly be comfortable.

Today, the wheelchair also plays a significant role in aiding less abled individuals participate in sporting activities, as we saw in the London Marathon a few weeks ago, and we will continue to see in the build up to 2016's Rio Olympics.

Here at Wenman Healthcare we have taken the time to reflect on how this incredible invention came to fruition, and more importantly how the wheelchair has evolved and adapted to meet the needs and requirements of millions of people worldwide.

Confused beginnings

It's not clear when the first wheelchair came into use. Although historians believe that during the 4th century the earliest form of wheelchair would have resembled a simple wooden cart. Although this information may not offer our customers much comfort, it highlights just has far the wheelchair has come since these humble beginnings.

Controversial Names

Our European ancestors had to wait until the 17th century before they had the use of a wheelchair which bared some resemblance to those in use today. These chairs were created in Germany and consisted of two large wheels, and a smaller supportive wheel at the back. Known as the "invalid chair" it had the extra luxury of being propelled along with the use of a rotary handle on the front wheel.

The Bath Chair

1750 saw the invention of the Bath Chair. This chair, named after the town of Bath, became very popular particularly with Victorian Britain. The wealthy, sick and injured would hire the bath chair to take waters at the pump room or to bathe in the baths. This was seen as a great luxury triggering the bath chair to outsell all other chairs throughout the early part of the 19th century. However, these chairs were considered uncomfortable for prolonged use and before long improvements were made, such as wire-spoke wheels and rubber tires, although the mobility of these chairs remained limited to the confines of an indoor environment.

The folding wheelchair

During the early 19th century wheelchairs were considered to be large and extremely difficult to transport. In 1932 a disabled American mining engineer known as Herbert Everest and his friend an American Engineer known as Harry Jennings introduced the cross-frame wheelchair. Made from tubular-steel this chair allowed disabled individuals to easily transport their wheelchairs outside their homes. This design monopolized the wheelchair market for years, so much so that The Department of Justice charged Everest and Jennings with rigging wheelchair prices. This case was later settled outside of court.

World War II

World War II increased the demand for wheelchairs, and with the invention of the motorcar it made perfect sense to create a motorized chair. Again it was Everest and Jennings who were the first to manufacture the electric chair on mass scale in 1956. The first designs were essentially a standard chair with a motor attached, which later came to be known as conventional power wheelchairs. This design was developed so that the motor and batteries were positioned under the seating of the chair, which allowed for a smoother ride. These designs have been refined to include proportional controllers, microprocessors and other computer technologies, which we see in the powered chairs taking centre stage in our showroom today.

Wheelchairs in Sports

Originally, wheelchair sports were introduced as a form of therapy in the rehab program Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylsbury England. They created the Annual World Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games - which later became the Paralympic Games, with thefirst event taking place in Rome, Italy in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 different countries.

During this time the wheelchair became lightweight, versatile and stable, enabling its smooth transition into professional sports.

From wheelbarrow to the Paralympics the wheelchair has deservedly reached great heights, now enabling less abled individuals to enjoy everyday life.

Wenman Healthcare is a family run provider of mobility and living aid solutions. We boast a dedicated team of friendly professionals, always available to answer your questions and provide expert advice when it comes to choosing the right products for you. To speak to a member of our team please call the office on 01926 624432 or email[email protected]

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