​What if Jeep made a kids wheelchair and it cost only $900 bucks?

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on January 16, 2020 # Mobility

By guest author Keoke King, CEO and co-founder of Participant Assistive Products

What if Jeep made a kids wheelchair and it cost only $900 bucks?

Did you know that around eight million kids need a wheelchair and don't have one? There is good news - many countries like Ukraine, the Philippines, and Kenya are adding supportive wheelchairs to their national health insurance!

For a child who needs a wheelchair with tilt, the challenge is that affordable and durable products simply do not exist. My team and I have experience working with users in these areas to design wheelchairs that work well for them. Last year, we started Participant Assistive Products, a B-Corp with a mission to increase the participation of people with disabilities by creating great products.

Launching a startup is challenging, and it helps to have a community. We joined Zebras United, which is a community of social enterprises and B-Corps. To help social enterprises get off the ground, Zebras United is starting an investment fund for startups; and, they made their first-ever investment in Participant via our Wefunder campaign! Thank you, Zebras!

Along the way, a funny thing happened.

Parents here in the USA saw users going off-pavement in our field trials in Colombia and on beaches in Mexico. They asked why they couldn't have one too. Hearing that, we decided to offer the chair on Indiegogo. It will be around $900 retail and on Indiegogo you’ll be able to buy in advance at a big discount (sign up for early bird discounts here). That is less than 1/2 of mainstream prices; but, it still covers the additional costs we have in the USA, such as FDA approval and liability insurance.

It is tough to go everywhere that life calls with only one chair. What we're hearing is that kids are missing out on vacations because of fears their chairs will be damaged in baggage handling. And, though kids like Thomas may love getting out under the trees, an off-road device is prohibitively expensive. To work well in Colombia and Mexico, chairs need to be built tough and trail-ready. We are thrilled that kids here in the USA may also enjoy it.

How our solution abroad may work for wheelchair users in the USA

For our work abroad, consider this case for the Philippines. The government reimbursement amount is around $500, 150,000 kids are in need, and there are 20 therapists with the required skills. And, though the situation is rapidly improving, there are essentially no vendors or ATP technicians. To face those challenges, our approach focuses on caregiver and user empowerment. Therapists will use the web to order adjustable and pre-packaged (not custom made) products. Delivery time will be 2-4 weeks and setting the chair up is very easy to do with only 1 tool. Caregivers can order replacement casters in the same way and they can self-install them with help from online videos.

We hope to serve kids in the USA with a similar approach. Do you have ideas that could improve our approach? We would love to hear from you. Please message us on Facebook or via our website. We will not get everything right on the first try. But, over time, we hope that affordability and empowerment will be helpful for many users. Thanks for your help!

Keoke King is CEO and co-founder of Participant Assistive Products, which is the first medical device company that is a Benefit Corporation. This means the social mission has the same importance as the commercial objectives. People with disabilities are empowered at every level from the board to front line staff. Participant Assistive Products’ mission is to increase the participation of people with disabilities by making affordable, high-quality assistive products.