Monday, August 08, 2016

Wheelchairs are Heavy! Don't Hurt Your Back!

by Zinta Aistars
(Blog for a Grand Rapids, Michigan, healthcare organization)

Joseph Ross, Physical Therapist, Spectrum Health Center for Acute Rehabilitation, had an idea how to make loading a wheelchair into an auto trunk easier. He talked with Scott Daigger, manager, innovation and entrepreneurship, Spectrum Health Innovations. He explained how he had created the idea for a patient’s mother who was in her 60s, struggling with loading her wheelchair into her car.

“I stayed after work that day and experimented with a crutch, using it as a lever,” Ross says. He demonstrated the maneuver to Daigger. He lifted the chair using  the crutch into the trunk with much less effort than expected.


“It was amazing when I had Joe show me his idea,” Daigger says. “However, the crutch wasn’t the optimal tool to use. We decided to work with Hope College’s Center for Faithful Leadership and their student team to design a better, more convenient lever.”

The group of Hope College students began by talking with potential customers to explore possible demand. In their market research, the students and SHI found that nearly 2 million people over the age of 65 in wheelchairs require the help of assisted living.*

Next step: create a better lever. They worked through several prototypes and finally came up with a lever that looked something like a pitchfork. They called it LoadMate™.

“I'm a biomedical engineering major at Hope College and interested in the medical device industry, so this project was right up my alley,” says Brenden Merriman. He worked on the project with Amanda Napier, Rochelle Miller, and Jonathon Maat.

“We tested our design with residents at a senior day center,” Merriman says. “In one such trial the elderly gentleman was able to ..."

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