The wheelchair has been used for centuries as a mobility aid for individuals with injury, illness, and disability.
In the hospital environment, wheelchairs continue to be an essential part of patient care, although their design and mode of use has changed over time.
The design of wheelchair we are familiar with today was developed from earlier models in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and typically had a footrest, two large wheels, and one or two smaller wheels at the rear. They were usually pushed by another person using handles behind the seat.
The self-propelled wheelchair was designed with hand breaks connected to a bicycle chain mechanism around the two front wheels. This allowed the user to steer, stop, and propel themselves with minimal assistance.
During and post World War II, the collapsable wheelchair was in high demand. It consisted of a metal, cross frame which could be folded and was cost efficient, and it was therefore mass produced.
Later wheelchairs were design with adjustable backs and arms to enable modification of the chair to the patient. Straps or Velcro allowed cushions of varying shape to be attached for comfort.
With the advancements in technology in recent years, what innovations do you think could benefit the future wheelchair?
Written by Jasmin Clark, CALHN Health Museum.