• The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

  • The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

  • The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

  • The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

Reto, the Wheelchair Designer (Part 1)

  • kitwan
  • News

The conceptualization of the Reagiro wheelchair

What does a designer do?

“I google myself and my project every two months because I want to know where it’s being published.”

I’m not sure if every designer would google themselves regularly but that’s how the Community got to meet Reto Togni (@retogni). He is the designer of the Reagiro, a manual wheelchair with a backrest steering system allowing users to navigate with only one hand.

Early this year our moderator Julia shared her discovery of the Reagiro on the Community blog. Three months later, Reto read the blog post after a Google search of himself, and even signed up as a member of the Community to give us his comments.

Reto shared more about the Reagiro at Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil.

As a follow-up, the Community team has invited Reto for a visit in August at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil, where we discussed the Reagiro further as well as disability and design.

Why designing a wheelchair?

Last year, Reto graduated with a double Master’s degree (MSc/MA) in innovation design engineering. During the second year of his Master’s studies, he, like the other students, had to run an individual design project. As a result, Reto designed the Reagiro backrest steering manual wheelchair. But why, of all things, did Reto design a wheelchair?

Inspired by Cybathlon, Reto decided to take on the theme of “disability and technology” since day one of his project. Although he had no idea what exactly to design at the beginning, one thing was clear: he wanted to know what people would like to see on the market and, most importantly, what people would like to use.

To gather more ideas, Reto started talking to people about disability and technology – not just the technical manners of assistive devices but also their emotional values to people. These emotional values, which are often ignored by engineers, are considered important by Reto and have become inspirations for the Reagiro.

Like a skateboard

Reto recalled one of the conversations with his good friend who is a wheelchair user. His friend had observed how smoothly skateboarders can move even over uneven terrain. He wondered how it would be to make a wheelchair that works like a skateboard. This comment was one of the clearest Reto got on what users exactly want with their assistive device. In addition, various comments about a joyful ride or leaning back have contributed to the conceptualization of the Reagiro.

User-centered designer

Reto’s design project lasted six months. Often he worked more than 12 hours per day and six to seven days per week. He recalled the first three months as the most exhausting and depressing. One challenge was to think of a workable engineering solution for his wheelchair so that users could operate it with one hand free. The other challenge was to cultivate a positive relationship between his product and the users.

During the visit, Reto shared with us constantly his thoughts and ideas on wheelchairs and the Reagiro. One can totally feel his passion and determination to create a user-centered device.

To Reto, a wheelchair and other assistive devices tell a lot about society and people. He thinks that, for many people, assistive devices are the most personal objects. He added,

“Wheelchair is the greatest symbol of being mobile and independent but it’s also a symbol of being disabled.”

Reto also talked about the multiple dimensions of wheelchairs. For the social dimension, he mentioned wheelchair is rather commonly used as a general icon of “can’t do something”, for example, in disabled parking slots. For the medical dimension, wheelchair is an assistive device which goes through many tests of functionality by clinical and engineering professionals. Finally, as wheelchairs are integral parts of many users’ lives and, furthermore, are often tailor-made, they can become highly personal objects.

“Anyway, there’s a social dimension. There’s a personal dimension. There’s a medical dimension. And they all influence each other, too – that’s what makes wheelchair interesting.”

Prototype of the Reagiro: result of a six-month project.

About being a designer, Reto shared that it is important not to be super egoistic. He pointed out that there are many designers creating something mostly for themselves, and that this circumstance is almost natural for designers. However, it might not be the best way of designing.

“For me, a design project becomes most interesting when it is about a specific social phenomenon, rather than some particular persons’ taste.”

Hence, Reto takes seriously what people think and what people want. That’s the basic principle of user-centered design.

The prototype of the Reagiro

After numerous discussions and informal test rides with wheelchair users, Reto designed and built the prototype of the Reagiro with multi-components including 3D-prints. This way he can customize the wheelchair to a high degree with a low manufacturing cost.

Have you spotted the Reagiro?

Reto brought along the prototype to his visit in Nottwil. On our way to a tour at Orthotec, Johannes and I had a ride with it. At Orthotec, Markus Anderhub, our Orthotec tour guide with incomplete paraplegia (L2-3), also gave it a try. Here’s a sneak peek of our experiences.

Reto (left) guided Johannes during his test ride on the Reagiro.

Reto (left) demonstrated the Reagiro to Markus (middle), assistive device consultant at Orthotec.

What’s next with Reto and his Reagiro project? Read it in my next blog post.

How does it feel to ride on the Reagiro? What’s new with the Reagiro project? Find out more in my next blog post where we continue the visit and discuss more with Reto.

Which assistive device do you wish to have or would you like to see on the market in future? Share with us!

Comments (0)

There are no comments on this topic yet.
Be the first to comment!

Rate this post

Forum
Most Recent Answers
5282 odyssita
Explaining what life with a chronic disability is like
Hi cAro, all the best for your research! I am very curious to hear about the results once they are being published. Thank you for researching this...
6 odyssita 2018-05-02
5197 Wheelie
Scewo
Good news for all who would like to try out the Scewo by themselves: according the Scewo constructors, the feedback on their invention was so...
5 Johannes 2018-03-12
Ask the Expert
Most Recent Answers
3 Dr._Hans_old 2015-07-20
3 Dr._Hans_old 2015-05-07

Blog
Most Recent Blog Posts
Wheelchair chefs: the success stories
Disabilities matter but ambition rules
0
lorenzo.deluigi 2020-07-22 In News
Make to Care, a competition promoting innovations
Which one of these four innovative projects convinces you the most?
0
kitwan 2020-07-02 In Society
Wheelchair users’ game of thorns
The fight for personal space, safety and independence
0
Wiki
Most Read
Anatomy and physiology of respiration
Breathing is the most normal thing in the world for us. We hardly think about it, even though we breathe in and out about 20,000 times per day. We breathe more when we are active and exerting ourselves, and we breathe less when we are...
Social skills increase quality of life
Today strawberry yogurt is on Anna’s* grocery list. In front of the dairy section she notices that she cannot reach the yogurt sitting in a wheelchair. Many stressed people are rushing through the crowded store during rush hour and she does not...
Mobilisation / Transferring
What do I need to consider with regard to the shoulders? The shoulder is the most heavily-strained joint with regard to mobilisation – that applies to sitting up and transferring. It is therefore important to protect the shoulders whenever it is...

About the Community
Most Recent Topics
2020-08-04 In Latest
An unconventional book on ignoring disability
"A picture is worth a thousand words." How about blank pages? Recently, a blank book has been released to express the absurdity people with disabilities are experiencing every day, as there is...
0
2020-07-16 In Latest
Free masks for high-risk patients with SCI
People with high-level tetraplegia, paraplegics of higher age and those with pre-existing health conditions are more susceptible to a severe development of COVID-19. For this reason, the European...
0
2020-07-03 In Latest
A COVID inspiration porn?
Over three months since the COVID-19 declared pandemic, many countries are still debating whether to make wearing face masks compulsory to help prevent the spread of the disease. Noam Gershony, an...
0

Contact

Swiss Paraplegic Research
Guido A. Zäch Strasse 4
6207 Nottwil
Switzerland

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
T 0800 727 236 (from Switzerland, free of charge)
T +41 41 939 65 55 (from other countries, charges apply)

Be part of the Community – sign up now!