A wheelchair for the future


 A new British-made wheelchair based on high-tech composite materials and Formula 1 engineering promises to transform the mobility aids market.

Carbon Black (pictured) was launched at the Naidex South exhibition of assistive technologies, where it won the Naidex South Style Award.

The wheelchair, which targets the consumer market, was developed by TV presenter and inventor Andrew Slorance with support from the National Health Technology co-operative Devices for Dignity (D4D).

D4D provided funding and expert guidance to help Slorance create a commercial wheelchair for the active, independent user that combines ease of use with elegant appearance.

Slorance applied Formula 1 technology and ergonomics to wheelchair design: the carbon fibre structure of the wheelchair is based on Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to improve its energy efficiency.

Each chair has a bespoke design for the individual user. The compact structure has a foam core, reducing mass without loss of rigidity.

Slorance, who has presented and directed TV programmes for the BBC, ITN and Channel 4, has gone into business to develop and promote Carbon Black. A BBC documentary about the work he and his wife Mary have done to make the chair a reality will be shown in 2012.

“One of the worst days of my life was the first time I went out in public in a wheelchair,” Slorance commented. “I was fourteen, the chair was so big and heavy I could hardly move it. I felt truly disabled, my ability was compromised by the limited capability of the wheelchair.

“Over the years wheelchairs have become lighter, but they are still a long way from being desirable products. It is my aim that the user of Carbon Black will feel empowered, their ability optimised by using a high-end piece of technology built by F1 engineers.”