The Sparco® Wheelchair Seat
Jacob Inspired - Jacob is a young man with Muscular Dystrophy and has the heart of a lion. His family is a prime example of power wheel chair consumers. His father Doug is a software engineer who would discuss the pros and cons of Jacob's wheelchair construction. I noticed the seat cushion base and seat back was a very antiquated and cheap foam pad. I knew we could develop an improved cushion inspired by automotive technology with improved comfort at a much lower cost than currently available for electric wheelchairs.
Research - The family demonstrated how they travel with Jacob, loading and unloading the chair in several vehicles and sometimes exposing it to the elements. The new seat cushions would have to be easily removable so as not to be exposed.
Design Concept - We knew thigh and shoulder support was necessary. Based on years of motorsports experience, I realized a competitive style race car seat would keep Jacob secure providing comfort and the desired support.
Sparco Support - I contacted the world leader in motorsports products and they donated several race car seat covers. We used the Sparco cushion design theme which offered better crouch, thigh, back, and shoulder support.
Design Direction and Prototype - I contacted Gabriel Corona, founder of Corona Concepts, to create the seat cushion into a similar Sparco racing style. The partnership between TheTrumanStudio and Corona Concepts resulted in the new electric wheelchair seat cushion product.
Competition - After attending the Abilities Expo at the Los Angeles convention center, we determined that no other manufacture of electric wheelchair seats could match the Sparco seat's support, comfort, and esthetics.
Marketability - According to WinterGreen Research, power wheelchair markets at $1.1 billion in 2011 are anticipated to reach $3.9 billion in 2018. Market growth comes in large part from demand for mobility from people who might otherwise be bedridden. Offering a more comfortable and stylish seat will flourish in an already emerging market. Plans are to have exposure in contests, Web sites, Social Media, Articles and Ads in disability publications, and live display at the Abilities Expo.
Innovation - Increased comfort with improved foam density. Adjustable seat base with air bladder features. Perimeter wing characteristics support an active occupant. Added easy to use details for installation and removal. Benefits to Jacob have been very noticeable. He can sit up straighter with less fatigue and use his computer keyboard with more ease. Connecting a medical product with traditionally very low esthetic appeal with Sparco's world class motorsports brand image and bright colors offers more function and style.
Manufacturing - Depending upon customer demands, there are two types of manufacturing strategies: 1. Hand form - using raw foam sheets, formed to satisfy customer requirements. 2. Mass produce - using a master mold and pouring a flexible polyurethane foam. Personalized fabric covers with zippers are easy to remove for cleaning and provide a variety of color and pattern options.