The evolution of technology in healthcare has come a long way in relation to mobility for the disabled. 21st century innovation could soon bring new life changing inventions to market in compelling new ways.

Let’s take a look at the humble wheelchair as an example.

The History of the Wheelchair

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Victorian-Wheel-Chair Technological Advances in Mobility for the DisabledIt is estimated that the first wheeled chairs were used in the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.

However, the first recorded use dates back to the 17th century. German inventors in 1655 made several rolling chairs called “invalid chairs,” which were not much more than chairs with two wheels at the front, and later developed to chairs with a rotating wheel at the back.

In the 18th century, wheelchairs began to appear as a transport vehicle for patients for surgical and medical purposes, and the first use of the word “wheele-chaire” itself is recorded in a private letter by Jane Austen (1775-1817).

The 19th century saw some additions to the design, including a shift to wooden frames with seats of cane.

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Then wire-spoked wheels and rubber tires were gradually introduced. Still, these early designs limited people to the confines of flat indoor environments because earlier models were heavy and cumbersome designs made from wood or metal, making them difficult to move.

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Electric_Wheelchair Technological Advances in Mobility for the DisabledThe 20th century saw the advent of the fold-up wheelchair, with more robust wheel design and movement capabilities. Subsequent models continuously shifted toward reduction in weight and increased maneuverability and performance.

Following World War II, the electric wheelchair was invented by George Klein to assist injured veterans. Standard chairs were adapted to electric wheelchairs with the attachment of simple motors. From there electric chair development saw advances in design, maneuverability, reliability and comfort, leading to the modern machines we see zipping down the streets today. (In some parts of NYC its not uncommon to see electric wheelchairs replete with speakers and flashing lights rollin’ down the block!)

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In recent years, there has been a progressive and integrative approach to technological adaptations led by the private sector that has enabled the exploration and design of “hi-tech” assistive devices to enter the fray. These 21st century designs are pushing the boundaries of technological evolution even further. Once such example is the Hovering StepRover.

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Innovation of the “New” Wheelchair

Argonault, the designers of the Hovering StepRover are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to raise capital for the development and launch of the wheelchair of the future.


  • A wheelchair with superior function and mobility
  • The ability to engage in activities without requiring 24/7 aides
  • The ability for your wheelchair to move in any and all directions
  • The ability for your wheelchair to be able to go up and down stairs, detecting every move via built-in sensors
  • The ability for your wheelchair to automatically load you and the wheelchair itself into your cars’ driver seat so you can safely drive to a destination of your choosing 

Imagine the positive impact on overall quality of life, dignity and independence that such a device could have for disabled individuals.

In the not too distant future, it could be a reality.

The StepRover project has been in development since 2005 and now the device has completed the engineering and technology stages and is ready for manufacturing!

And amazingly, the developers have ensured that the StepRover will be compatible with all accessories and options already available on the market.

What do people think about the innovation?

Many people have had their say on various posts on Facebook and most agree that a device like this is well overdue and could change the lives of disabled people. The biggest questions and concerns are around cost, most agreeing that such a device will be incredibly expensive. Production time, research and development requirements, automotive requirements, and insurance coverage are also being questioned.

Though there are issues and questions surrounding the wide-ranging use of such a machine, visionaries at Argonaut are leading the way because ideas and innovations like this will make the future better for everyone.

Show your support and donate to the campaign – Rehab Alternatives will be!


Wheelchair image credits: ChairBlog, Bing,,,, Karma Mobility Solutions.