John Horrigan is giving independence to wheelchair users

John Horrigan is a product designer based at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin. His particular interest is design for disability and he is about to start work on the commercialization of his first product for wheelchair users, the Cara Universal Armature.

What’s innovative about Horrigan’s design is that it can accommodate interchangeable attachments that can assist a wheelchair user with daily tasks such as working, studying and shopping more easily.
“I feel products for those with disabilities often fall very far behind general consumer goods in terms of materials, aesthetics and the implementation of technology,” Horrigan says.
“As a product designer my goal is to solve real life problems and as an undergraduate I became interested in focusing on the area of disability and specifically mobility.”
Horrigan is based at Origin8, NCAD’s incubator unit and his project has received feasibility funding from Enterprise Ireland and support from NovaUCD where he recently completed its 2014 Venture Launch Accelerator Programme. Enterprise Ireland has recently approved commercialisation funding for the venture and this will allow him hire engineering expertise to help refine and finalise his design over the next 12 months.

He first came up with his idea in 2011 and describes his design as “an assistive living system aimed at active wheelchair users from the age of 18 upwards. My design is inspired by interviews and ethnographic research with wheelchair users and I also spent time in a wheelchair myself doing research,” he adds.
“I looked at the obstacles and difficulties encountered everyday and found that there were very few products available to help. So if you are self-propelling how do you hold your coffee or where do you put your shopping? How do you mind your child or stay dry if it’s raining? You simply run out of hands.”
The patent-pending Cara Universal Armature (a working title) is essentially a rigid platform that can be connected to the axle or frame of any manually propelled wheelchair. This gives it a low centre of gravity and a central position to create balance. It folds away after use so as not to get in the way of the person getting in or out of their chair.

To read the rest of this article, published in the Irish Times, please click here.