How Far Have Wheelchairs Come?

February 01 2020

How Far Have Wheelchairs Come?

Wheelchairs are essential for anyone living with disabilities that impair their ability to walk. There are many advances in wheelchair technology that those with disabilities can benefit from. These advances aren’t limited to more sophisticated wheelchairs, but even the most basic of wheelchairs have had plenty of improvements throughout history.

The Humble Beginnings of the Manual Wheelchair

No one knows the exact date the first wheelchair was made, but the earliest records of a wheeled transportation device were found on an image on a Greek vase of a wheeled child’s bed (525 BC) & in a stone carving in China (6th Century).

The first known wheelchair purposefully designed for disability and mobility was called an “invalid’s chair”. It was invented in 1595 specifically for King Phillip II of Spain. The chair had small wheels attached to the end of a chair’s legs and it included a platform for Phillip’s legs and an adjustable backrest. It could not be self-propelled but most likely the King always had servants transporting him around.

Manual wheelchairs are still widely used and are still ever-evolving. Heavier models used to dominate and folding ones were virtually unheard of at some point. Self-propelled wheelchairs gave people more independence. Now, wheelchairs come lighter and can be made from materials such as aluminum and carbon fiber. They are also easier to maneuver. For optimal performance, wheelchairs for handicap sports are customized for speed and agility.

As the manual wheelchair has changed over the decades, substantial advances in related mobility devices have evolved. Learn more about them below.

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs, otherwise known as power wheelchairs, used to be heavy and expensive, and they were almost impossible to handle because of the lack of joysticks and programmable features. Today, aside from joysticks for easier maneuvering, users can now use gestures, head movements, and even tongue movements to control the wheelchair. 

Stair-Climbing Wheelchairs

Technology in the wheelchair space has advanced toward improving independence to wheelchair users. A major challenge people in wheelchairs face, stairs.

Stair climbing wheelchairs, like the PW-4x4Q Stair Climbing Wheelchair, can be equipped with a gyro system that synchronize the angle of seat in relation to the ground. Seat angle is automatically adjusted on stairs or slopes, which allows body to maintain an upright position. This allows for an individual to explore more areas that they never thought possible with a wheelchair.

Other Advancements in Mobility Devices

Although not wheelchairs in themselves, exoskeletons allow patients to move in a nearly natural way through joints and hydraulics, as if they’re actually walking. They’re not that widely available and getting hold of a unit will cost a lot (Starting at around $28,900), but they have the potential to resonate in the medical community. As technology advances, it is in the hopes of the wheelchair community that they may become more mainstream, with more affordable options becoming available to the public.

Advancement in wheelchairs and mobility aides is important. By allowing people living with disabilities easier access to activities and more independence, those individuals’ quality of life is improved significantly.

Reliable Wheelchair Transportation

For reliable wheelchair transport services, for both standard and bariatric, HealthLift NEMT of Arizona serves Phoenix and Tucson 24/7.

HealthLift NEMT of Arizona provides non-emergency transportation in Arizona with vehicles using newer-model, top-of-the-line vans, equipped with heavy-duty wheelchair hoists. Whether you need transportation to medical appointments, the airport, or just a night out, HealthLift can accommodate your needs. You can easily book & track ride online with a HealthLift Account, call or contact us for a free quote.

Sign Up for a HealthLift Account

Booking non-emergency transportation services has never been easier. In order to access online booking and tracking, you must have a HealthLift account. Signing up for a HealthLift account is easy. Call (602) 298-1818 or fill-out the sign up form below, and we’ll get in touch to assist you with HealthLift’s online booking features.

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HealthLift’s new A.D.A. compliant vehicles are equipped with bariatric and standard wheelchairs and stretchers. Learn more about our services here: