After years of frustration with uncomfortable wheelchairs that broke, DIETER MARZINGER, with the assistance of his company Integrated Convoy Protection, designed the ultimate all-terrain wheelchair – the Reva Wheelchair
I was at the end of my tether, endlessly negotiating with a local wheelchair manufacturer to get my wheelchair back from their workshop after it had been there for weeks. The workmanship was so poor that the wheelchair kept breaking at regular intervals. The backrest was cheap and uncomfortable, and the centre of gravity was wrong.
It wasn’t cheap and I could not afford it myself. I had organised a fundraiser among my friends and family to buy this vital piece of equipment. This made me feel worse: I wanted to be responsible with the cash raised for me, but I had bought a piece of rubbish.
I had been lying in my bed for a couple of weeks in a state of frustration when my boss paid me a visit. He asked me what was the matter. Why don’t we build wheelchairs that don’t break? I asked.
I work for Integrated Convoy Protection (ICP), which builds a range of armoured vehicles specifically for military applications. It’s diversifying into the cash-in-transit field. If it can build military vehicles that can withstand explosive devices and landmines, I had no doubt that ICP could build the toughest wheelchair around.
I received access to the company’s engineering department, where we spent many hours designing the Reva wheelchair. We tested it for an entire year over the roughest terrain and obstacles to identify any weaknesses in the design, and we made various corrections until we were happy with our product.
The pre-production model had me focusing on the softer side of things. Never in my previous five electric wheelchairs had ergonomics played a factor. The backrests were always incorrectly angled, they were cheap and none ever gave lumbar support. I was determined to change this, adding torso and leg support to ensure good posture and body stability.
A ventilated backrest was added, which is a first, according to my knowledge – yet it’s such a simple addition! The Reva wheelchair is able to elevate, which is helpful in a social setting, as you can converse with others at eye height. It can recline and “tilt” to shift your body weight and relieve pressure, which ensures a longer, more comfortable sit.
I have designed and manufactured the ideal wheelchair for me and I believe that it will be of benefit to others as well. Wheelchairs are such important assistive devices that we need them to be well-designed, ergonomic and robust. They are our legs and we cannot afford to have them break.