Hands-free Wheelchair gives "freedom" to the Disabled

"The disabled are exactly like you and me, they all need freedom and excitement in their life. And Ogo takes that to a whole new lev...

"The disabled are exactly like you and me, they all need freedom and excitement in their life. And Ogo takes that to a whole new level. It will go faster, it will go more places and is smaller and lighter than just about anything else. And the fact that you can operate it completely hands-free makes Ogo a definite game-changer."
– KEVIN HALSALL, INVENTOR OF THE OGO WHEELCHAIR

Kevin Halsall was frustrated seeing his best friend, Marcus Thompson, struggle with everyday tasks after a skiing accident left him paraplegic. So Halsall, an engineer from New Zealand, designed a wheelchair to allow his friend to lead a more active lifestyle.

The result is a game-changer. Named the Ogo, the battery-powered wheelchair is based on Segway technology which allows intuitive and precise hands-free movement. Users just lean towards the intended direction and engage their core muscles to stay in balance, which occupational therapists are “very excited” about. The hands-free maneuverability will allow users to engage in other activities, like playing sports or mowing the lawn.

“It’s one of the life affirming things that this machine does, it puts you in touch with your whole body again,” Thompson said. 

Other impressive features include being able to accommodate different tyres for all terrains, and to move at speeds of up to 20kph, even when it goes off road.

At first, Halsall bolted a chair onto a borrowed Segway as proof of concept, before moving on to build a prototype. The development phase took four years of teamwork, between Halsall and Thompson, and the hard work paid off, with the finished article becoming a New Zealand’s National Innovators Awards finalist.

The Ogo was tested on people with disabilities from T4 to T12, and some tetraplegics, and anyone who had abdominal control could operate the device. Those without could still use the wheelchair by holding on to the sides or steering manually. There are also stabilisers to keep the chair from toppling over for when users are, for instance, lifting items off the floor.

It is in the process of being made available for purchase. The price is not yet determined but Halsall wants to keep it as low as possible to "make it affordable to people that need it".

Let the following video show you what a great idea the Ogo is:

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