The convenience of never having to recharge a manually-powered wheelchair is often outweighed by the fact that riders must use both arms to steer it. Carrying something like a smartphone at the same time is a big challenge, so a Swiss design student was inspired to design a better wheelchair that allows riders to steer by leaning their bodies.
The Reagiro, designed and prototyped by Reto Togni, features a pair of smaller front wheels that can turn left and right. But instead of a joystick controlling the direction the wheelchair goes, its backrest doubles as a steering wheel. As it’s tilted from side to side by the rider leaning, mechanical linkages transfer those motions to the chair’s front steering wheels.
The improved design means a rider no longer has to use both hands to control the speed of each wheel in order to turn—one hand can be freed up for holding a phone, carrying a bag, or reaching for items while the wheelchair is still being maneuvered.
Often times a traditional wheelchair is turned by braking or slowing one of its wheels while in motion, which can put strains on the rider’s arm and shoulder muscles, leading to additional health complications. Togni is confident his Reagiro wheelchair design could also help alleviate those problems, while providing more stimulation for muscles in the rider’s core while they’re steering.
But, the benefits of the Reagiro wheelchair are still just speculation, as the redesign hasn’t been put through any clinical trials as of yet. It will be quite a few years before Togni’s design ever becomes available to those facing mobility challenges, but let’s hope he has the chance to see his creation put into production, as it has the potential to improve a lot of people’s lives.