Wheelchair vans are among the conversions we sell here at Classic Vans, and we have a great deal of respect for the designers who create the innovative wheelchairs our customers utilize. One of the most innovative designers we’ve heard about is Wai Lam Wong.
The Malaysian born product designer, who has a degree in Industrial Design, has merged an artist’s creativity with industrial design to produce innovative wheelchairs with features that reflect the user’s personality and needs.
We reached out to Wai Lam and asked if he’d be willing to answer a few questions about his designs, and what he sees as the future of wheelchair design. He graciously agreed, and has allowed us to print his responses here.
1. You designed two wheelchairs, the Big Foot and the Lime Cycle. Could you please explain the concept and features of each, and how they benefit the user?
The Big Foot wheelchair and the Lime Cycle were designed as product concepts to explore how a wheelchair can break away from a sterile and industrial aesthetic. The Big Foot injects humor and fun in the form of a pair of bubbly round legs wrapping around the users’ legs. The Lime Cycle experiments with how a wheelchair can be made modular so that by adding an extension, it can be converted into a hand cycle for further travel. The designs were done in 2003 and I believe there are already products similar to the Lime Cycle in the market.
2. What inspired you to design wheelchairs? How did you get started?
I was looking into areas where design is lacking and products for people with disabilities seemed like a good area to start. I had this vision that wheelchairs could one day be as personal as shoes, each reflecting the users’ personality instead of a purely functional object to enhance mobility.
The wheelchairs I designed are an attempt to liberate the form and structure of a wheelchair from the existing sterile outlook.
3. Can you tell us a little about your background and how your experiences set you on the path of inventing such things?
I was educated as an Industrial Designer. My work involves collaborating with clients and users to improve their products. This involves user research, concept generation, idea brainstorms, mechanical engineering and even prototype fabrications. I would really like develop the wheelchairs further with the help of real-world wheelchair users and medical professionals to take the wheelchairs concepts into the next stage and make functional prototypes.
4. What do you enjoy most about the inventing and design process?
The most rewarding part about the design process is solving a problem in ways that no other person thought of.
5. What do you see as the future of wheelchair design?
I see the future of wheelchairs evolving into a very personal object with vast customization options to suit. The manual wheelchair will be around for a long time just like how the bicycle withstood the test of time even though we already have Segways, motorcycles and cars. New technology in materials such as carbon fiber, nano technology and smart materials will enable future wheelchairs to be lighter, more ergonomic and more efficient.
You can learn more about the Big Foot and Lime Cycle wheelchairs here.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us, Wai Lam.