The Beginning of the Modern Manual Wheelchair

wheelchairFor most, the image of the manual wheelchair is very well known and the first thought when the word wheelchair is mentioned. They are also the oldest type of wheelchair, with records of manual wheelchairs dating back many thousands of years. Of course, these early wheelchairs looked a great deal different from the manual wheelchair of today.

Some of the earliest records of wheelchairs date back to the early Asian empires and are known about only because of the images found by historians. These devices were often simply just wheeled carts and were even sometimes pulled by animals. As time progressed, the wheelchair would continue to develop, but there was not a real standard until the late 1800′s. Up until this point, wheelchairs came in many different sizes and often very cost prohibitive. In most cases, these early wheelchairs were only available to nobility, who had them custom built.

By the beginning of the 1900′s, a wicker wheelchair had become popular, but it was rather heavy to use and could not be self propelled. This changed with the development of the E & J wheelchair. The E & J wheelchair used hollow steel tubing to provide a strong, but lightweight frame. It could also be folded to take up less space and featured large wheels in the back. The wheels were designed so that the wheelchair user could propel themselves without assistance. Since the wheelchair could be folded and was so lightweight, it could be easily traveled with, making it very popular.

Around the same time that the E & J wheelchair was developed, World War II began. During the previous war, World War I, there had been a number of wounded soldiers, but due to the medical conditions, there was not that high of a survival rate. However, by the time World War II had began, there had been a number of improvements in medical care. One of the most important being the discovery of penicillin, which is a powerful antibiotic. As a result, there was large increase soldiers who survived as paraplegics. This increase would drive demand for the E & J wheelchair.

This early wheelchair would form the basis for the modern wheelchair and its basic design is still used today.. Its design being used in almost all forms of manual wheelchairs.