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  • Wheelchair design looks to the South


In the West, a wheelchair user needs to get from car to building. In the developing world it's a different story – rough terrain, unpaved roads and diverse cultural and practical needs, all demanding considerable ingenuity in chair design. 

In this interview, Ralf Hotchkiss – a wheelchair designer and user – relates how insights from counterparts in South America, Africa and other developing regions revolutionised his understanding of what disabled people there face, and need.

Hotchkiss has designed cheap, custom-made wheelchairs for people ranging from disabled Zambian footballers to women in rural African villages. He also actively promotes indigenous wheelchair design and manufacture in developing countries, and teaches many Third World designers who subsequently bring their know-how home. 

Link to interview in New Scientist 

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