Friday, 4 March 2011

Weekend Reflection: Looking Back, Looking Forward


Electric wheelchair from 1969, design Henrik Wahlforss for Permobil AB

The Swedish Design exhibition from the 60’s/70’s that I visited two weeks ago also included design of handicap products.

Back in the mid 1960’s there was a Swedish doctor, inventor and entrepreneur, Per Uddén, who worked hard to find new ways to improve the quality of life for people with functional disabilities. One of his ideas resulted in an electric wheel-chair with some unique technical features for its time. Today Permobil has grown into a global company but the head office is still in the small town in Sweden where it all started.

I worked for a number of years as a secretary for occupational therapists in the hospital (and saw quite a few wheelchairs and other technical aids and inventive solutions). I also have a close friend (sometimes referred to on this blog as Friend Who Writes Letters), who is nowadays very much dependent on hers. Back in the 1970’s when I first got to know her, she was not yet in need of a wheelchair. But I have always associated her with colour. When I saw this orange wheelchair at the exhibition I just had to take a photo so that I could send her a copy. I’m sure her modern one is much better suited for her needs… But ‘the spirit’ behind the early orange one somehow seems just in line with my friend: Colourful, empowering and striving for independence!

I can only wish for her that she’ll be able to keep up the fight, and that she’ll have the good fortune (in midst of other misfortunes) to come across doctors and occupational therapists and medical technicians as inventive and as ready to ‘think new thoughts’ as the man behind the first Permobil.

♥ ♥ ♥

Linking to Weekend Reflection # 76
hosted by James at Newtown Area Photo


  1. This is beautiful!! Cheerful, alive and cute! I've never seen anything like it! A friend just loaned me a wheelchair called a transport chair, and we gave it a trial spin last night. But this orange chair does look like it would be uncomfortable, the back is not very high and the seat looks hard.

  2. Looks like a fun one to me, but then I'm not quite ready for any kind -- just yet. What an interesting exhibition! Enjoy your weekend!


  3. love the color of it and those big wheels would go anywhere, like sandy beach or grass, maybe not quite as quick on the turns as the new modern ones. i have never seen one like this one.

  4. The design may not match up to modern designs with years of experience behind them but as a pioneering piece of equipment it looks like a big step in the right direction for the disabled.

  5. I think anyone with a respect for the old would love to use this even now. I do hope your friend is able to maintain until she finds doctors who can help her. I know she is going to love this colorful old chair on wheels. Love the post.

  6. I have one of these wheelchairs, looking to restore it.


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