How frugal innovation can be a catalyst for inclusion for people with disabilities

An estimated 70 million people around the world need wheelchairs, according the World Health Organization. That’s a little less than 1 percent of the global population.

The common wheelchair is, in many ways, a dated technology. Even more advanced powered wheelchairs are usually heavy, boxy, and difficult to maneuver naturally around common environments like classrooms or office. Often, the wheelchair is the first thing people notice.

But what if we could use frugal innovation, disruptive technology and collective intelligence to strip away the stigmas and change the lives of individuals with motor disabilities?

That’s the subject of the latest episode of the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab’s “#IFWE Impact” series on LinkedIn. The episode features interviews with Gyrolift and Magic Wheelchair, two disruptive innovations proudly accelerated by the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab program that positively impact people and society for a more inclusive world.  

“We really think no one should be defined by the wheelchair they’re moving on,” says Maxime Giraux, managing director and partner at Gyrolift, “And we try to get rid of the mobility stigma linked to wheelchairs.”

The big idea behind Gyrolift is to create a mobility solution inspired by Segways and a stabilized modular seating system that allows the user to stand straight up and maneuver intuitively and securely. Their solution designed to enable full mobility with a smaller, lighter, more nimble device compared to most powered wheelchairs.

“The market is somehow not very innovative,” Giraux explains. “What we do is leverage new technology to have a new kind of solution that brings more self-sufficiency to people, with a powered device that lets people stand up – and move standing up.”

Thanks to the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, Gireau explained the startup is able to access a best-in-class 3D modeling and design platform, while also taking advantage of advice and support for communication and marketing.

An equally innovative but also very different case is Magic Wheelchair, an association with the objective of transforming the dreams of young children into reality.

“Our mission is to build epic costumes for kiddos in wheelchairs at no cost to their families,” says Christine Getman, executive director of Magic Wheelchair. “Our hope is to continue to raise awareness for rare diseases and promote self-expression and inclusion for anyone with a disability.”

To that end, Magic Wheelchair connects builders with vendors and professional fabricators who create custom costumes for children in wheelchairs. The volunteer teams work around the kids’ wheelchairs and specific mobility needs to create incredible, interactive designs.

What if we could use frugal innovation to strip away the stigmas and change the lives of individuals with motor disabilities?

Several costumes have been designed using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and fabricated in Dassault Systèmes FabLabs around the world – all with the goal of putting smiles on children’s faces. The first such design was a Max D monster truck costume for a boy named Jonah, who got to receive his costume right next to the real Max D at Monster Jam.

 “The costumes are a catalyst for inclusion,” Getman said. “We’ve heard them say that, for once, folks aren’t asking them why they’re in a wheelchair, or what’s wrong. They’re asking them about their favorite character or their favorite episode from the show that their costume is from. So, it really is a wonderful way to create more opportunities of inclusion and finding commonalities amongst peers. And really ultimately that teaches empathy to all kids.”

The #IFWE Impact Live series is hosted by 3DEXPERIENCE Lab Head of Innovation Frederic Vacher and French Journalist Marion Moreau. Originally launched in 2021, the series features immersive conversations with entrepreneurs and innovators who are working to change the world. The first #IFWE Impact season primarily focused on the areas of health and life sciences and cities and infrastructure. Season two has thus far featured and episode on energy and one on inclusion. Watch Season 2 Episode 1 below.

Patrick Ball

Patrick Ball

Patrick is a Senior Communications Manager on the Corporate Publishing team here at Dassault Systèmes. An experienced journalist, marketer, speechwriter and storyteller, Patrick's words have appeared on pages and stages around the world.
Patrick Ball

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