Moushira's picture
Step up

The Challenge: 

The Question: 

How can you navigate places more freely and independently on a wheelchair

The Problem: 

Mobility and privacy while using a wheelchair

The Solution: 

A hardaware that can be mounted to wheelchairs?


Greetings everyone, the below challenge is based on the work done during the co-design session at WeMake.  We would like to share it as a challenge, to get feedback, give more visibility, and make it easy to collaborate on this idea, if someone is interested.

The story is written by a third party (me!), while keeping privacy of the original problem poster safe :)

If you are paralyzed, you are most likely using a wheelchair, and if you use a wheelchair, then you need someone to push the wheelchair in order to help you navigate through the city.   Not only does this make the challenged person feel like a burden, but it adds another layer of inconvenience, which is privacy.    Due to the nature of how most wheelchairs are designed, the person who aids the person who needs care, has to accompany this person everywhere, limiting the chances of being able to navigate the city or any place independently while enjoying privacy and a little independence.  The challenge gets worse in places like train stations, airports, metro stations, basically any place with stairs, an over crowded, and the requirement of different modes of motion.  Would it be possible to think of a mechanical system that can be attached to all “standard” wheelchairs,  that can revolutionize their functionality of the wheelchair, making it possible to access every place and surface easily with it, while keeping the expenses to do so, within limits?   Any thoughts?

*Header image author Tim99~commonswiki, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.


Have you seen the interview with Raul Krauthausen?

Nadia's picture

I read this and was reminded of the conversation with  @moriel, @lujia, @ChristineOehme and @Luise Kröning about their product design project after this  interview with Raul Krauthausen

They are taking a different approach in asking how to create environments which are    inclusive by design and not by label.

Someone mentioned a website with a map of the city as seen from perspective of someone who has to navigate it with wheelchair: where there are no-go zones etc. Insight: many barriers are completely invisible to anyone not affected by them. They proposed some design intervention towards making barriers in a decentralised manner visible as a first step. My opinion: making barriers visible is great when you also have the means to do something about it then and there without too much effort. Like a workaround where you can put something in place to make a staircase accessible etc. Without having to rely on the city or the architect or whatever to get involved. This allows us to live out our better selves, rather than be guilted for yet another thing that someone else failed to do on our behalf. Or wait for change that never comes.

My two cents.

WheelMap by "Die Sozialhelden"

Moriel's picture

You can find the map on
The wheelmap is a map for wheelchair accessible places. You can find places, evaluate places you have already been to, or inscribe places. The map shall help people in wheelchairs or with other mobility limitations to plan their day easier.

When I met Raul Krauthausen for an interview, we looked for a place on the wheelchair, that fits us both: based on the location and the accessibility.


A similar approach in Italy

Alberto's picture

The city of Lecce launched a hackathon with students, hackers and wheelchair-bound individuals to collaboratively map barriers to individuals in town (story, in Italian).

Wheelchair obstacles mapping in Lecce

The approach is slightly different from that of Wheelmap. Wheelmap assigns a tag to a single point:

"wheelchair" = "no"

Whereas they actually mapped objects using OSM Tracker, for example traffic light poles, and added codes to them according to the impact they had on mobility. So, accessibility relates to objects ("nodes" or "ways") in OpenStreetMap rather than to coordinates. The results are stored as a layer in a CSV file on the city's open data portal and linked to OpenStreetMap via Umap. Maps are generated by dynamically superimposing OSM and the accessibility layer: 

This was done by the wonderful @piersoft and fellow citizens.  

Wheecharingling to the stars or the moon

Rune's picture

@Moushira, with 'Would it be possible to think of a mechanical system that can be attached to all “standard” wheelchairs,  that can revolutionize their functionality of the wheelchair, making it possible to access every place and surface easily with it, while keeping the expenses to do so, within limits? '

you ask for the stars, but if we realize the WeHandU, i'ts about what you ask. You join in with an idea for a solution/someone has a proposal, together we realize. You test the solution and you are happy , U reiterate improvements or abandon. Most important: We and U document opensource the result of the work for others to build on.

It's not the stars but wouldn't it be getting you to the moon be good enough ?

Existing solutions

Rune's picture

Though wheelchairs not my speciality I have seen several solutions presented by scholars. For example:; Stairclimbing see: (so the NHS offers zero)

In theory its simple:

why dont you just buy one of these? or

( I actually saw one on the street the other day) Who dares hack a segway? And who dares using it?



"because Segway is too mainstream"

Noemi's picture

LOL, talking about inclusiveness this fits right in and well, a bit over the board - I'm thinking of the need for hyper control over battery life and avoid being trapped somewhere..

@Rune, thanks for sharing, I

Moushira's picture

@Rune, thanks for sharing, I wasn't aware of WeHandYou, and it is already a "stellar" solution, in my opinion,  thanks for sharing :).  I couln't tell from the link, but do you know at which stage is the project now?


Rune's picture

@Moushira,I'm sorry to hear that it's a 'stellar' solution. We try to be very practical, applied and earth bound. ;-)

stage =  version 2.x forked from experience 1999. Hardware 11 & 2.0. (Sorry, It's an iterative process.) We are prototyping the concept within the next weeks.

Let's have a chat/brainstorm. I'm very interested.


A "simple" idea.

Francesco Maria ZAVA's picture

Indubbiamente, costruire basi di dati ed applicazioni mobili finalizzate alla mappatura del territorio "accessibile" e "non accessibile" pe quanti si avventurano nelle nostre città ed intendano usufruire dei loro molteplici servizi (vedi, incontra la mia più totale ammirazione e gratitudine.
Tuttavia, sicuramente anche per un moto di orgoglio e per un inalienabile desiderio di libertà e di riconoscimento del mio essere cittadino, ritengo occorra adottare un approccio complementare che cerchi di risolvere le specifiche esigenze di ciascun individuo, laddove le barriere materiali sussistono e rinforzino quelle culturali, realizzando soluzioni che consentano al nostro ausilio di disimpegnarsi in sicurezza oltre che con efficienza.
A questo scopo, nonostante non abbia competenze tecniche in materia, sto provando a realizzare un concetto partendo da questi esempi:
L'idea di base è quella di realizzare un sistema di mobilità modulare, parzialmente cucito su misura per alcune tipologie di utenza, che possa superare le "difficoltà" del terreno e nel contempo costituire un concentratore di servizi e funzioni avanzate (comunicazione, monitorizzazione parametri, controllo ambientale di casa e postazione lavorativa, ecc.).

Certo, questo è chiedere le stelle... ma potrebbe essere l'inizio costruendo quanto meno la rampa di lancio!


Undoubtedly, build databases and mobile applications aimed at mapping the territory "accessible" and "inaccessible" eg those venturing into our city and intend to take advantage of their multiple services (see He / databases / libraries / detail / id-455), meets my utter admiration and gratitude.
However, certainly for a surge of pride and an inalienable desire for freedom and recognition of my being a citizen, I believe we must adopt a complementary approach that seeks to address the specific needs of each individual, where the material barriers exist and reinforce cultural ones , creating solutions that allow to our aid to disengage safely than with efficiency.
To do so, despite not having technical expertise in the field, I'm trying to create a concept starting from these examples:
The basic idea is to realize a modular mobility system, partially sewn tailored to some categories of users, which can overcome the "difficulty" of the soil and in the same time constitute a concentrator of services and advanced features (communication, monitoring parameters , environmental control of the home and work place, etc.).

Of course, this is to ask the stars ... but it could be the start of building at least the launching pad!

Bello, molto!

Alberto's picture

Grazie, @Francesco_Maria_ZAVA . La sedia a rotelle con i cingoli che si vede nel secondo link mi ricorda certi strumenti che si usano nel trasloco dei pianoforti, e che possono trasportare carichi pesanti (e con il baricentro alto, perché i pianoforti vengono messi in verticale per risparmiare ingombro) su per le scale. Fanno perfino gli angoli sui pianerottoli! 

Il link a gennymobility risulta rotto.  


Francesco Maria ZAVA's picture

Ok, Alberto, probabilmente il "meccanismo" è un poco inusuale per dare mobilità alle persone, ma potrebbe essere comunque interessante partire da ciò che abbiamo a disposizione ...magari chiedendo ai ragazzi dell'ETH di Zurigo un aiutino!

Per il collegamento, prova partire da