Introducing The Mobility Unlimited Challenge

If you take a walk across the centre of your city, you will find it to be a straightforward experience with few inconveniences. The occasional hold-up at a pedestrian crossing perhaps, or maybe a crowd of people in a busy shopping area. If however you take the same walk in the company of a wheelchair user you are likely to encounter an entirely different experience. The streets become a nightmare of obstacles to avoid and inaccessible areas requiring a detour, and suddenly what had been a pleasurable experience becomes a significant effort. Despite building and planning code updates to improve the situation, and millions of dollars invested in ramps, lifts, and other improvements, there remain so many problems to be addressed. Meanwhile legislators and the general public imagine that something has been done, the accessibility box has been ticked, and they can move on to the next thing that captures their attention.

The paralympian athlete [Tatyana McFadden] is an ambassador for the Toyota Mobility Foundation’s Mobility Unlimited Challenge, a global competition with the aim of improving mobility for people with disabilities. She’s written a piece introducing the challenge from her informed point of view as a wheelchair user, and makes the point that the basic design of a chair has not significantly changed since the 1930s. Her sentence: “There may be more hype around Bitcoin, but innovators could have far more impact if they turned their attention to how they can make the freedom to move available to all.” is one to make those of us with an interest in technology stop and think. To introduce the challenge they’ve released a glossy video, and we’ve placed it below the break.

As part of this year’s Hackaday Prize, we had an Assistive Technologies section that attracted some fantastic entries. That demonstrates that our community has plenty of people with the required skills, experience, and ideas to make a difference, and we hope that some of them might be among the entries for the Mobility Unlimited competition. If it excites your interest, we’d like to urge you to give it a second look.

A word of warning though – take care to avoid the Engineer Saviour Trap.

10 thoughts on “Introducing The Mobility Unlimited Challenge

      1. The Japanese own Boston Dynamics now, so those robots will a) Help the elderly b) Rain terror on people that copy a Sony movie or TV clip.

        I assume you mean Boston Dynamics since General Dynamics makes warplanes like the F16 and missiles like the Tomahawk cruise missile (which you might call one of the first commercial drones come to think of it).

        If you meant General then those handicapped people will experience a good boost in speed and acceleration though :)
        And meet less resistance I suspect.

    1. Some clever mechanics for _safely_ climbing stairs would be enough for a start. They solved this for sack trucks already. Can’t be that hard to apply the same principle to wheelchairs. Would of course need a brake to allow the person to have a rest at any time on the stairs.

  1. To further the cause of ‘mobility unlimited’, I wonder how I could get innovators interested in developing city and landscape maps in a tactile form to assist blind people navigate their surroundings?


  2. nonsense. there is too much money to be made in redesigning completely cities after the needs of a few people, rather than finding a way to make those few people able to use “normal” infrastructure

  3. I wrote to James Dyson to ask if he would look at wheelchair design. I never heard back (no real surprise there), but he does have all the bits – motors, batteries, mechanical and electrical engineers. An all electric wheelchair that broke apart simply and easily, for transport in a normal size car would be a complete win. I’ve a dozen back of an envelope designs that *could* work, how hard can it be?

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