Happy Holidays and all the best for a wonderful New Year from Icon Wheelchairs!
Wow – what a year. At the beginning of 2011, we were still in the early stages of final design. In under a year, we went through the proof of concept prototype stage, final design review, engineering, finite element analysis, testing, production prototyping, tooling design, limited production run, final testing, and finally full production.
It’s sometimes felt more like we’ve been designing a rollercoaster, not a wheelchair, but finally seeing production parts coming in made it start to feel “real.”
We couldn’t have done any of this without an enormous amount of help. Joshua Mailman believed in us, and gave us seed financing to get this thing off the ground. Multimatic believed in us and made the best engineering and manufacturing resources on the planet available to us. Sportaid believed in us, and put us up on their website before any other dealer. Jana Douglas believed in us and put in the first ever Icon order. Many, many people believed in us and gave us honest and helpful advice on what we should include in the design of this wheelchair.
Seeing the first fully assembled chair and boxes labelled “Icon Wheelchairs” going out the door made all the hard work and late nights worthwhile.
We started doing this whole “wheelchair making” thing in part because of our personal frustrations with the medical device industry. We’ve spent a collective 55 years being consumers of wheelchairs, and close to 35 years combined working in the industry.
Luckily, both Christian and I have always been able to build our own equipment, but not everyone is that lucky.
Over the course of our “careers” as people who use wheelchairs, we heard from dealers who were frustrated at having to stock countless iterations of the same model of wheelchair, struggling with complex mechanical adjustments, and dissatisfaction with the lack of innovation in the products they were trying to sell.
We heard from experienced clinicians about their frustrations with the amount of time it took for them to feel confident in getting a fully custom chair just right, and we heard from their less experienced colleagues about the level of anxiety that the fitting process caused, often driven by overwhelmingly complex order forms. Most of all though, we heard from hundreds and hundreds of users who were sitting in chairs that didn’t fit for a number of reasons, and who were stuck in them – some for many, many years.
So we designed and are now manufacturing and commercializing the Icon A1 Adult Manual Wheelchair to try to address these things. It’s so easy to build that it practically builds itself. One of the most valuable elements is how easy it is to adjust all the measurements to fit someone in an Icon, and how “foolproof” those adjustments are, because they can be re-configured as many times as necessary.
2011 has been a great year, and we have high hopes for 2012.
Thanks to everyone who believed in us – we owe a great debt of gratitude to many people, and resolve to spend the next year paying it back with hard work.