New wheelchair prototype allows users to turn by using their upper body strength, a novel steering system helping them ''lean in'' to bends. Matthew Stock reports.
This new wheelchair allows paraplegics to manoeuvre using upper body movement rather than through breaking and pushing. Called the Reagiro, it's been designed by Royal College of Art design graduate Reto Togni. SOUNDBITE (English) RETO TOGNI, CREATOR OF REAGIRO (REE-AH-JEERO) WHEELCHAIR, SAYING: "Conventional wheelchairs they basically work no different to shopping carts. They have casters that rotate in every direction and this is great for certain things, not so great for others. So on this one one can lock these caster wheels in a straight position against the steering bar that then is activated by the backrest." The backrest pivots left and right according to which way the user wants to move. This makes the two small caster wheels travel in the same direction. Using the upper body to turn maintains the energy and movement of the chair, making steering easier. SOUNDBITE (English) RETO TOGNI, CREATOR OF REAGIRO (REE-AH-JEERO) WHEELCHAIR, SAYING: "In terms of the mechanical system it's a push-pull cable used in industrial machines. It works like a bike brake cable, except that it's not only pulling but also pushing. The rotation of the backrest is translated into rotation of the front wheels." Users make the wheelchair change direction by leaning in the direction they wish to travel. A patent's been filed for the design and Togni is looking for investment partners to turn his prototype into a consumer model.