Franklin D. Roosevelt, Stephen Hawking and Frida Kahlo are just a few of the many inspirational figures that made an impact despite – or better yet, through – their mobility impediments. These individuals proved that disability was not an obstacle when striving to become a political leader, a scientist, an artist or any other profession that one aims to be successful in.
Although society has made progress in creating more accessible environments, there are still many obstacles to inclusion and equal opportunities. Andrea Depalo, founder of startup Avanchair, is very familiar with these barriers: “Being a wheelchair user myself has been a challenge, and I want to change the way the world perceives individuals with a disability”. He adds, “There is no disability: there is only a different way of expressing one’s potential, one’s willpower”. This is the objective of Depalo’s Avanchair project and the reason behind the company’s latest crowdfunding campaign, Wheelchair Revolution.
The future of seamless accessibility
Avanchair is an Italian e-health startup, which has developed an electric, IoT-powered wheelchair that provides users with total autonomy and safety in moving from chair to any other platform, without depending on the presence of a caregiver.
“Our target users are individuals like me, who have congenital tetraplegia and can be reduced to almost complete disability if they don’t undergo treatment or surgery”, explains Depalo. According to the Wheelchair Foundation, approximately 131 million people in the world need a wheelchair.
Everyone has the right to move, and Avanchair aims to facilitate autonomous movement. Depalo says that “thanks to the vertical and lateral movements allowed by my wheelchair, I am able to transfer myself – completely independently – to another surface and back. The moment that became possible, the chair ceased to be my prison”.
Depalo’s groundbreaking wheelchair technology has the potential to transform the world of mobility as we know it. For this reason, the startup is launching its latest crowdfunding campaign to raise the 130,000 euros it needs to build a ready-to-market prototype.
Crowdfunding for autonomy
Although 2020 was undoubtedly challenging, Avanchair rose above all difficulties by applying for a patent in the United States – which was swiftly approved. Depalo mentions that “we have deepened our relationship with Enel and have begun collaborations with the Italian Ministry of Defense’s Veterans Center and other important institutions, which will allow us to improve our product and develop new services”.
As of 2021, Avanchair is deep in the development phase, and will continue to fine-tune and test the technology for its new wheelchair and perform user trials to achieve further advancements. “Our current goal is to implement the ready-to-market prototype; it is the necessary step to be able to make this technology available not only to me but also to the multitude of people who share my condition”, Depalo declares.
To turn this goal into reality, the company has launched a crowdfunding campaign and aims to use donations to purchase more technologically advanced materials to finalize the product, introduce added accessories to the chair as well as incorporate high-quality finishes. “The money raised will give us the possibility to release the product to the market as we designed it: living up to the expectations of the disabled users it is intended for”, Depalo explains.
The importance of accessibility
As a society, we learned a lot over the course of the last year – and more importantly, we improved our ability to move forward through solidarity. Avanchair’s solution is a potential game changer for global accessibility, as it gives users the freedom to interact and transfer safely between surfaces. To guarantee the project’s success, the company is currently partnering with tech companies such as SPII, Burago Viti and Kronos, co-working space Le Village, and more. At Enel, we are working at their side not only as collaborators but also as facilitators in making this solution available to all.
As technology continues to evolve and make significant improvements in terms of human-machine interface, design and overall usability, Depalo and his team will always place their primary audience first. “Our vision is to allow wheelchair users to live in independence and autonomy every single day”, affirms Depalo. Through its crowdfunding campaign, this pioneering company will be able to launch a revolutionary product and give independence back to many people.
Interested in contributing to Avanchair’s cause? Take part in their crowdfunding here.