Research and Development Overview
Whirlwind’s work falls into two broad categories: user-originated design and wheelchair production and provision
Wheelchair riders know best what they need in a wheelchair to be able to carry out their activities of daily living. Rider-originated design is a defining principle at Whirlwind that keeps the rider’s environmental and use requirements at the front of our minds. Since 1979, Whirlwind’s founder, Ralf Hotchkiss, himself a paraplegic, has traveled all over the world in chairs he has built himself to learn from other wheelchair rider/builders in small shops what features are necessary in a good wheelchair that will be used in the rough conditions that are prevalent throughout the developing world. Durability and repairability mean the chair will last a long time, lowering the overall cost of the chair over its lifetime. The RoughRider’s much greater stability makes it the chair of choice for safety and freedom, as well as for use in rough environments. Wheelchair riders as much as anyone else deserve to have a product that is visually appealing, so aesthetic concerns are close behind function in our approach to design. Designs that really work where people actually live give riders freedom to go where they need to go. Recent innovations in Whirlwind’s wheelchairs include upgrades in the support for posture, increased durability, and increased size range.
Production and Provision
Our wheelchair is manufactured in medium and small scale shops in Vietnam, China, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, and the Republic of Georgia. They are shipped all over the world. In addition we have two wheelchair provision and assembly centers (WPACs) in Sierra Leone and Nigeria. WPACs shift the focus from full-manufacture to assembly shops which emphasize wheelchair provision, repair, and fitting services and are better positioned for long term sustainability.