A more extreme wheelchair…that’s safer?

A nice post and a nice ending to the story, from JH, Intro GIS

Watch out able-bodied hikers, casual nature-walkers, and general outdoors enthusiasts, because that engine revving behind you may not belong to that dastardly logging company trying to spoil your leisure. What is it then? None other than those who are wheelchair-bound’s answer to the call of the wild. Fraunhofer, a German-based IT company, has joined with Otto Bock, another German company that specializes in advanced healthcare products, to create the “Superfourin”: a wheelchair with not only excellent off-road capabilities, but more pertinently, an onboard GPS unit that allows a predetermined control centre to both track the location of the patient or user, but also keep tabs on the user’s vitals such as their pulse. Although not a cheap replacement to the standard wheelchair, the two companies have brought with their innovation creation a host of opportunities as of yet untapped with respect to the healthcare industry and GPS technology.

An example of this comes fresh in my mind from something I witnessed about 4 years ago. I was working at a local hardware store and as usual I decided to make a quick run home for lunch. Crossing the same major intersection I would always have to cross (a case where a handheld GPS would have found no better route), I noticed a fairly feeble looking middle-aged man picking up a fair amount of speed as he crossed the intersection beside me on his motorized wheelchair. No sooner had I watched him whiz by when he suddenly hopped the oncoming curb, slammed his wheelchair into the base of the traffic lights and was consequently catapulted from his wheelchair onto the unforgiving pavement. Luckily for him, this was a busy intersection with many good Samaritans only too willing to help him out. However, it was when he started to have a seizure that everyone around the incident, including myself, had the sinking feeling that this had gone from bad to worse. Then, for but one reason, worse became dire: no one in the immediate area had a cell phone.

The moral of my little anecdote is that even if all of those who carry out their daily routines cannot afford or practically use a Superfourin, the concept of a GPS unit in the wheelchair promoted by these companies is invaluable. This man clearly had some sort of ailment that kicked in while he was crossing the street, and subsequently saw him launched onto the pavement into a seizure. Worse still, those who wanted to help were (by today’s standards) under-equipped communicative devices. With a GPS unit in a wheelchair, the passerby is taken out of the equation as the response is triggered by the unfortunate events themselves. With GPS technology only getting cheaper as it is further mass-produced and affordable to most everyday consumers, it seems like a logical next step to begin to apply its use in all matters where both the safety and the health of the potential users are at stake. The man in my account could have been much better served had a GPS unit been installed in the same manner as the Superfourin’s. Fortunately, I saw him in the hardware store two weeks later and he had fully recovered from the accident.

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