Close

Roll up

If you spend your day in a wheelchair, it better look cool
Magazine layout

Samuel Gibson in his invention, a wheelchair that can lower the rider to ground level and lift to standing height

Do you fancy mag wheels, a chilli-red paint finish and black mesh seats? Patented suspension? An electric actuator to lift your ride four feet off the ground?

Samuel Gibson did. So when he couldn’t find a wheelchair that was both practical and cool, he set out to create his own. Two years later and the first container-load of his invention, the EziRiser, is currently winging its way to Europe.

Conventional wheelchairs are a few feet off the ground—and there they stay, well below the height where most eye contact, work and conversation takes place. The EziRiser, though, lifts and lowers its rider as needed. “It gives me independence,” says Gibson, who won the Attitude Enterprise Award for the chair in December last year.

The proposition makes sense—there’s no longer any need to ask for help to everyday tasks like fetching cans in the supermarket, money from a cash machine or a drink at the bar. Gibson lives in an unmodified house and works in a regular office, a feat that he credits completely to the EziRiser. “It’s great because it lets kids get on to the mat at school, or play games,” he says. “But it’s actually kind of annoying for me because now I have no excuse not to wash the dishes or pick up after myself.”

The chair is part of a global deal struck in 2008 with Swedish wheelchair manufacturer Permobil; Gibson and co-inventor Campbell Easton have kept their patents on the chair, while Permobile distributes it with the much less snazzy name of the k450. Gibson and Easton have since despatched two containerloads of the k450 to the US, giving them access to the two largest paediatric wheelchair markets. they’ve kept the patents they hold for the chair, while Permobil handles sales and distribution.

Function is the EziRiser’s goal, but the inventors didn’t forget form. “One of the big things is it has to look good,” says Gibson. “Being in a wheelchair you get a lot of attention. I wanted to turn that into a positive thing—especially for kids, so they can be proud of the ride they’re in.”

Article illustrationThe joystick drives the chair, and controls the indicator and hazard lightsThe electric actuator system allows the chair to tilt 30 degrees so users can easily shift their weightFabrics come in leatherette or meshElectric motors drive the chair; electric actuators move the seat up and downDesigner colours are chosen to appeal to children, including chilli-pepper red, black onyx, platinum silver, pop-star pink and titian blueThe battery is the heaviest part of the chair, so it’s close to the ground to increase stabilityAdvanced suspension for a smooth rideWhen upright, the user’s knees are at right angles. As the chair lowers, wheels on the footplate allow the legs to extendIndicators and hazard lights were added to comply with US standards

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).