I felt good about design the first time I saw, in a movie theater, a wheelchair user sitting next to their non-wheelchair-using companion. Empty space had been carved out of a row of seats to admit wheelchairs. (This practice didn’t exist when I was a kid.)
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There’s not many public seating situations where that set-up is replicated, but C60 Design, a Shenzhen-based industrial design consultancy, reckons they can build it right into the wheelchair. Here’s their Accompanying Wheelchair concept:
“Existing wheelchairs are solely designed for the comfort of wheelchair users. However, wheelchair pushers tend to get tired legs and feet after an extended period of standing and walking. This is especially true for elderly wheelchair pushers and in situations where there is no public seating or rest stop available.”
“With this observation as a starting point, Accompanying Wheelchair is a thoughtful design that considers the needs of the wheelchair pusher. At the same time, it creates opportunities for heart-to-heart communication between wheelchair users and a family member, friend, or wheelchair attendant. Its design is intended to make every applicable scenario warm and comfortable for both people.”
Sadly it appears that this is just a concept. I’d love to see some prototypes exploring the actual feasibility of the design, how much weight it adds, how much weight it can hold, et cetera.