The WHILL – A New Mobility Device

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Have you seen this new wheelchair design yet?

The AT Network recently had WHILL, Inc. come give a demo and presentation about the development of this new wheelchair design – actually not even called a wheelchair, but rather, a mobility device.  Everyone at the meeting agreed that the WHILL was very cool!

The WHILL was developed by engineers in Japan on a personal mission to not only improve the functionality of the wheelchair, but to improve the style as well. 

Wheelchairs have been around for centuries, yet look at these pictures comparing the advancements in phone technology versus the advancements in wheelchairs during the last century.

Shocking, no?

The main features distinguishing the WHILL from other mobility devices – other than the unique and modern design – are its unique wheel structure (the front wheels are actually made up of many smaller wheels), side arm rests that lower to allow for easier transfers and for sitting at a desk/table, its “mouse-like” steering system, its smaller and narrower size, and a smaller, sharper turning radius for users. 

The WHILL only weighs about 200 lbs, while typical power wheelchairs designed for the same sized person are closer to 400 lbs. Its unique wheels allow the WHILL to traverse easily through rough terrains such as snow, gravel, dirt, and woodchips. It can even go over curbs that are up to three inches tall! Furthermore, it is rain-proof and, with a full battery, it can travel up to 15 miles depending on the terrain.  

Shannon, who is a power and manual wheelchair user, had a chance to test drive the WHILL.   
picture of shannon in the whill talking to ceo who is squatting on the ground
Shannon talking to CEO of WHILL Satoshi Sugie
 “First of all,” she said, “I like it because it is very stylish. It feels different that driving my own power wheelchair. It doesn’t feel quite as stable as the one I currently use, but I like that it drove very well over rough terrains. I also like that it is very simple and sleek in its design.  It is not bulky and you actually don’t even feel like you are riding in a wheelchair. It made me feel like I was riding on some sort of a futuristic Segway and it reminded me of the movie, WALL – E.” 

The WHILL Type A is the third prototype design by the company. For the first two designs they recruited many wheelchair users to test their design out and explain what worked and what didn’t work for them.  Currently, they are taking their first limited orders. The current cost is around $9,500 – depending on the features you order for it- but they plan on the cost lowering once the WHILL is mass-manufactured to make it more affordable to all. I hope Medicare/Medical will cover it!

What do you think of the WHILL?  What do you think of using the term “mobility device” instead of wheelchair?  Write your answers in the comment box below!

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