Wheelchair users have an urgent stake in Health Tech development and Toyota is encouraging them to participate in a global mobility challenge. The frustration, physical pain, and limited access faced daily by wheelchair users underscore the need for investment and innovation. In 2016 we wrote about DEKA and Toyota‘s collaboration on a next-generation IBOT, a motorized wheelchair that can switch from four to two wheels. We wrote about the Pneuchair, a waterproof wheelchair that runs on compressed air developed at the University of Pittsburgh‘s Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL).
Global research firm ComRes compiled an evidence-based report on wheelchair users for the Toyota Mobility Foundation. ComRes surveyed 575 wheelchair users in the U.K., U.S., Brazil, and Japan in March 2018. Among other findings, the disheartening ComRes study reported 92% of U.S. wheelchair users experience pain from their chairs, 24% have been declined entry to public transport, and 31% have been unable to find an accessible toilet when needed.
In November 2017 the Toyota Mobility Foundation announced the $4 million Global Mobility Challenge to encourage teams to create technology that will “change the lives of people with lower-limb paralysis forever.” Entry submission for the Challenge closes August 15, 2018. The winners will be announced in Tokyo in 2020. The Challenge encourages people with lower-limb paralysis to suggest and discuss mobile technology innovations they would like to see, using the hashtag #MyMobilityUnlimited. Suggestions will be collected to inspire entrants in the Challenge to focus on real-world issues faced by wheelchair users.