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What Did People Do Before Mobility Vehicles?

Jan 30, 2008
Since the invention of electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters, one does wonder what the world was like without all these wonderful technological aids in our lives. People with mobility disabilities will not have had the same amount of help as they do now, and certainly, the government have brought in new schemes and benefits to make these equipments more affordable.

However, even those who do purchase mobility scooters may find it more cost effective than those who are in need of electric wheelchairs. There are more insurance policies and procedures to adhere to than there are with scooters, though insuring a scooter is much more difficult than an electric wheelchair. Due to the difference in people using them, scooters are much cheaper than electric wheelchairs and can only be used by people who are able to sit upright.

History

Perhaps the historical background of all mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs date back with the beginning of wheelchairs in England and Europe during the 1670's. This was designed mainly as a heavy piece of furniture on wheels, pushed by an attendant and not by the user. Much of the wheelchair users did not have any independence and required the aid of another person at all times.

Other recordings such as an engraving of the first wheelchair usage in China dated back around 525 AD, which documented a picture of someone seated on a chair with wheels built on each leg. Subsequent recordings of the wheelchair are difficult to trace until 1595, when a sketching made in Spain of King Phillip II was documented to be seated on a chair with wheels. However, this was designed for a servant or an attendant to manoeuvre.

Even though wheelchairs were widely used by attendants, in 1655 Stephen Farfler, a paraplegic watchmaker, had built a chair on a three wheel chassis with handles attached to the single front wheels. This was one of the first recordings of a user manoeuvring independently without the need of an attendant or servant.

The 19th century saw the wheelchair become less cumbersome and freer for users to manoeuvre easily themselves, as they were able to turn the rear wheels themselves. In 1881, manufacturers modified the wheelchair, by adding a second rim with a smaller circumference to each wheel, which made it easier for users to travel across muddy grounds without it being a nuisance.

The 20th century saw the design of the wheelchair focussing on bringing more independence for the users, rather than keeping to the original design of a heavy cumbersome device. The first innovative changes made to the wheelchair were the adaptive seating, movable hand and foot rest and wire-spoke wheels, that transformed the wheelchair from being a disability tool to a postural aid too.

In 1916, British engineers had built the first motorised wheelchair; this was not widely used until the latter part of the 20th century as manual wheelchairs were becoming cheaper. Harry Jennings in 1932 transformed the wheelchair once again, by inventing the first foldable wheelchair making it much easier to store.

As the years followed on many modifications and extra accessories were added to the wheelchair, including a new mobility scooter used mainly for people with difficulties in moving but have good upright seating ability. Electric wheelchairs and wheelchairs continue to be widely used and are now much more cost effective in purchasing, maintenance and insurance.
About the Author
Anna Stenning is an expert on mobility scooters and has researched extensively on the background of wheelchair usage. For more information on mobility devices click on http://www.euromedical.co.uk/
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