The 3D-printed wheelchair: a revolution in comfort?

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If Benjamin Hubert gets his way, the days of the one-size-fits-all wheelchair could be numbered.

For millions of users, the essential mobility device can feel clinical, mechanical and uncomfortable. Now the British industrial designer thinks he’s found the answer: 3D-printing.

His agency, Layer, is using 3-D digital data to map biometric information. The technology allows the design team to create a bespoke wheelchair that fits an individual’s body shape, weight and disability.

“This… object performed better, decreased injuries and expressed the individual’s sense of style, movement and emotions,” Hubert said.

The resin and plastic material used for the seat absorbs shocks and the design ensures the user has the best center of gravity.

Layer, which once focused largely on creating high-end home furnishing products, has shifted its attention to projects that have more social impact.

It involved users in the design process by creating an app where they could specify optional elements, patterns and colors.

It also interviewed users to find out about pain points and frustrations before they began developing prototypes.

“It’s a very stigmatized, emotionally charged area of thinking so it became really important for us that it embodied points and views and opinions and voices of the people who we were designing for,” Hubert said.

Continue onto CNN Tech to read the complete article.

How driverless cars can empower Americans with disabilities

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A new report shines light on the possibilities of more equitable autonomous transportation

The hype over driverless cars often paints pictures of the incredible freedom riders and former drivers would obtain when they can take their hands off the wheel and let the car do the work. The futuristic life of leisure, however, doesn’t always take into account the significant population of Americans for whom any regular transportation access would be revolutionary. For those with disabilities, access to public transportation, much less control of their own vehicle and life, would be empowering. The possibilities of autonomous vehicles designed for everyone could impact a huge swath of the population: a recent government report found that 6 million Americans with disabilities have difficulty getting the transportation they need.

According to a new report, Self-Driving Cars: The Impact on People with Disabilities, released yesterday by the Ruderman Family Foundation and Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), the potential of driverless vehicles to liberate Americans with disabilities from transportation issues, bring more people into the workforce, and save substantially on health care, is vast. By engaging with government and private industry to make sure that tech firms and carmakers address the needs of drivers with disabilities, the report suggests new transportation options can be designed that would create 2 million more job opportunities and save $19 billion annually in health care costs.

The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates equal access to transportation, was supposed to help Americans with disabilities get around. But decades after its passage in 1990, the promise of equality hasn’t been met, especially when it comes to employment. Transportation is one of the key hurdles. A 2003 Department of Transportation study found 45 percent of Americans with disabilities didn’t have access to a passenger vehicle.

Public transportation systems often lack full access for riders with disabilities and only cover certain parts of the country, streets don’t always have proper access for wheelchairs, and public paratransit systems, which allows riders to book trips in advance, are often crowded and offer minimal access. Agencies that run these services often run with high operating costs and don’t have the resources to provide reliable and convenient services. According to Andrew Houtenville, an expert on disabilities at the University of New Hampshire, “there is no expectation whatsoever that paratranist will perform to the level necessary.”

Continue onto Curbed to read the complete article.

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