In 2012 four seniors at Arizona State University got together to design UP, an elevating wheelchair they hoped would simplify life for people with disabilities. Though each graduated that year, the team continues to meet once a week to work on the design and hopefully get it to the people who could benefit from using it.
Peter Georgiou, one of the original designers, graduated in 2013 but continues to work on the project.
“With this wheelchair we hope to give people independence and re-establish a sense of normalcy,” he told The State Press.
To better understand the difficulties someone in a wheelchair faces on a daily basis, Georgiou spent time using a wheelchair to move about campus. During his “test” drive he noticed that vending machines, bar counters and other locations most of us take for granted are located too high for people in wheelchairs. Someone in a wheelchair is on average two feet lower than someone who is standing.
“You begin to realize that things are out of reach, everything is meant for people of average height,” Georgiou said.
The UP wheelchair can elevate by as much as 10 inches so people with disabilities can choose the height that makes situations more comfortable for their specific needs.
During their research, the UP team also came across another social problem that people in wheelchairs have to deal with. Because of the height difference between an able-bodied person and someone using a wheelchair, it is inevitable that the person in a wheelchair is continually being looked down upon.
“People are literally looking down on them (people in wheelchairs) and that’s a problem we want to solve,” Georgiou said.
With the elevation feature of the UP wheelchair, a person in the wheelchair can easily elevate to the height of the person they are speaking with and have normal eye-to-eye contact during conversations.
The project is made possible through Arizona State’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides student ventures with workspace, resources, legal and website discounts and funding.
Tracy Lea, a venture manager at ASU Entrepreneurship and Innovation group, is impressed with the team’s idea and goal.
“I think the project has the opportunity to give anybody greater mobility and greater freedom and to be able to have an active lifestyle. I think it’s fantastic,” she told the State Press.