According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 50 million people currently living with disabilities in the United States. See the data here. Considering the size of the country’s disabled community, the lack of media coverage in the area of innovation for the disabled is troubling to say the least. Not to mention that over 30,000 people have been wounded in the ongoing conflict in Iraq, and many of those soldiers return home having sustained life-altering physical and mental injuries. The number of disabled in the U.S. is growing every day, and needless to say, this is creating an emerging market of considerable magnitude. A multitude of companies have sprung up that are manufacturing diverse and innovative products to meet the needs of this growing population.
One such company is Colours Wheelchair, a manufacturer of ultra-light, athletic wheelchairs for active, physical wheelchair users. While there are a host of companies creating innovative products for the disabled, Colours Wheelchair has set itself above the fray. Not only does Colours seek to be progressive in their product design, but by collaborating with the motivated and creative individuals that inspire their work, they hope to advocate a hopeful, motivated lifestyle as well.
Colours manufactures stylish and hip wheelchairs for those who wish to be active, those who seek to go beyond the typical limits of mobility. According to Wheelchair’s founder and president, John Box, Colours Wheelchair is "in the business of selling self-esteem, self-confidence, and a unique lifestyle to each person who purchases a Colours wheelchair."
Colours dedicates its resources to meeting the changing needs and capabilities of the consumer and is able to stay on the cutting edge of design by privileging interaction with its customers. After all, they are the inspiration. Wanting to make a wheelchair that kids would find appealing, Box began making his wheelchairs adjustable, more flexible, and lightweight, offering a variety of accessories in order to make his product more individualized. Many of Colours’ chairs go by names like "Spazz" and "Hammer"—Colours isn’t afraid of trying to be cool. It’s this difference that sets them apart—this openness to the individual, to customizing, that has led Colours to become an industry leader, selling over 2000 units each year in 25 different countries.
What’s more, the company has created an interactive web portal that allows customers to post feedback, pictures, and commentary for all to see. On the homepage, a photo gallery of disabled women in provocative poses has been uploaded. Colours presents itself as more than a simple company, it is a movement, hoping to empower its customers and give them the means to surmount the countless obstacles they face on a daily basis.
On YouTube, I found a video of Aaron Fotherinham, a 16 year-old Extreme wheelchair athlete, becoming the first person to successfully complete a wheel-chair-powered backflip. Watch it here. Aaron’s backflip was enabled by a Colours wheelchair, which is both lightweight and features four-wheel suspension. Aaron is featured on Colours’ homepage, along with other disabled, boundary-defying athletes.
It is through interaction with Aaron and other athletes that Colours has learned that its product can help expose wheelchair users around the country to activities once thought impossible for the disabled. Colours has recently designed a manual wheelchair using a hybrid wheel-design that gives its users access to the beach! Its products are enhancing the lives of Extreme-minded and not-so-extreme-minded people alike, helping them to overcome the insurmountable: "If you look good, you feel good; and if you feel good, you are in a position to succeed, despite your challenges," said Mr. Box.