Made with lightweight, streamlined carbon fibre, the Carbon Black wheelchair is designed well: the sporty, minimalist look is so far removed from the metallic, sterile appearance of a traditional wheelchair that it looks like a foreign luxury sports car in comparison. It's what I imagine Professor X would use if he had his pick today.
"It is designed to empower the user in the knowledge they are using a highly designed, high-tech piece of kit not a medical device", Slorance told me.
"Highly designed" might be an understatement. Building a better wheelchair has been Slorance's dream for years, ever since he was paralysed at age 14. (He was the star of a documentary called My Perfect Wheelchair on the BBC.)
Carbon Black customises each chair, so you can get a certain type of wheel or make adjustments based on specific needs. In addition to looking good, the thin material makes it an easy chair to push around, and the rounded edges aren't just an aesthetic decision: they are made that way so they won't snag on clothes as well, and to make dismantling the chair to transfer into a car an easier process.
Carbon Black's next big step is aiming to break into the lucrative US market, hoping to be available across the pond in 2015; even if it gains FDA approval, they'll need to get insurance companies onboard to make the custom-made chairs are affordable, especially since it's a very small family company manufacturing in small batches right now. As such Carbon Black chairs start at £1,200, almost ten times the cost of a basic entry-level wheelchair.
So that'll be a battle for affordability, but one worth fighting. This is a wheelchair created by someone who knows what it is like to be reduced down to your medical equipment, a chair designed to enhance life without entombing users in dated stereotypes.
Carbon Black isn't the only lightweight carbon fibre wheelchair idea. Motion Composites, a Quebec-based company, sells attractive, sleek wheelchairs with carbon fibre finishes. There's another contender in the pretty wheelchair market for people who want to use a power chair: the elegant Whill is a minimalist motorised mobility tool with smartphone connectivity. [DesignBoom]
Images via Carbon Black