Tim GilmerHaving used a manual wheelchair for 47 years, I’ve had plenty of time to consider wheelchair design and what I’d like to see in a manual chair. And I also know what I don’t want to see, mainly the pea-brained designs you’ll find on www.designboom.com. There’s a super-cushy chair with oversized chrome wheels, a four-foot width and no footplates — totally impractical, unless you plan on staying in the living room the rest of your life. Then there’s the cutesy woogle chair with its cartoon-like fat legs and plastic bucket seat that look suitable for an ambulatory child — but not a paralyzed adult.

The problem with these designs is that they have nothing to do with practicality. I’d guess most of the designers have never even used a wheelchair. With this in mind, I offer you my suggestions for my dream chair.

First off, I’ll need self-cleaning casters. I spend more time unwinding my wife’s hair from my casters than any other maintenance task. And while I’m on casters, I’d like to see quick-change EZ on-and-off casters of differing sizes. Most chairs come standard with the smallest size possible, but if you ever need to lean over in front or to either side to pick something up, you know how easy it is to tip and get dumped out. What if you had a larger size available, preferably built right into the chair? Just retract the small caster and snap the larger one into place. If that’s too complicated and unwieldy, then how about snap-down front stabilizers?

Then there’s the comfort problem. Sitting in a manual chair all day with no tilt-in-space or recliner function is hell on your butt and back. Why not make an adjustable reclining function so you can vary your sitting position once in a while?

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