International Wheelchair Day was started ten years ago by Steve Wilkinson. This year March 1st, 2018 will be the 10th anniversary people around the world celebrating their lives in a wheelchair. In honor of the positive impacts the wheelchair has had on millions of people, we’ve taken a look back through its history.
6th– 4th C BCE The earliest depictions of a wheelchair have been found in paintings from China and Greece, though the exact way they worked or looked isn’t known.
1595 A chair with wheels was created for King Phillip II of Spain, which had both arm and leg rests. However, there was no way for the user to move the chair themselves, so it had to be pushed by someone else.
1655 A paraplegic watchmaker from Germany, Stephen Farfler, created a three-wheeled chair when he was 22. The chair worked through a series of gears and was controlled by a hand crank at the chairs front.
1783 John Dawson of Bath, England made a chair with two large wheels in the back and one small wheel in the front. This could be steered with a handle but was still pushed by someone or pulled by a small horse or donkey. This was the best-selling chair of the 19th Century, although it did not provide much comfort.
1869 A patent for the first wheelchair with wheels that could be pushed is filed. It also featured a more comfortable chair as well as leg rests.
1870s Several new designs established a more lightweight version of the wheelchair. Rims were added to the wheels of the chair, making it easier to be pushed by the user. The seats progressively became more comfortable as well. These features continued to be used with newer designs.
1932 Harry Jennings created the first folding wheelchair made from steel. This advancement allowed users to transport their chair and use it wherever they went. He co-founded the company Everest & Jennings, which became a major distributor of adaptable products in the 20th Century.
1956 Although designs were created as early as 1916 for an electric wheelchair, they were not made on a mass scale until decades later. When the need for wheelchairs skyrocketed after WWII, George Klein of Canada created the first modern version of the electric wheelchair. Everest & Jennings was again the first company to manufacture this product.
1979 The Quickie was an ultralight chair created by Jim Okamoto, Don Helman, and Marilyn Hamilton with athletes in mind. It also introduced a more attractive design with color options.
2018 Today, 2.2 million people in the US alone use a wheelchair every day. Chairs have become adaptable for each person’s needs and offer comfort and style. New technologies allow users to get around and explore better than ever and we look forward to seeing what the future holds.