‘Be cool, stay cool’: the story so far of the cooling backrest cushion shaking up the mobility industry.
The wheelAIR cooling backrest cushion was designed by CEO of Staels Design and MSc Graduate from the University of Glasgow, Corien Staels.
Staels first became aware of the cooling problems experienced by wheelchair users whilst writing her undergraduate dissertation. She discovered that those with a spinal cord injury had to cool themselves in dramatic and unforgiving ways – having to strap ice packs to their bodies or spray themselves with water hoses post-exercise.
Since then, it became apparent to Staels that overheating was not a problem just for those with a spinal cord injury, but for the majority of those in wheelchairs.
This problem is little known by able bodied people. Staels commented, “A big challenge for us has been raising awareness not just about the product but the fact that those in wheelchairs are struggling with overheating on a daily basis.”
She continued, “I was astounded that there had not been an unobtrusive solution before now, we’re living in the 21st century!”
Through her determination, she founded Staels Design in 2016, and she has been working rigorously to bring users the solution to overheating: the wheelAIR.
The patent pending wheelAIR has been carefully designed with the input of Paralympic athletes as well as wheelchair producers. Using inbuilt fan technology, it not only cools the back, but reduces the user’s core temperature by taking away excess heat and moisture. This allows for instant comfort and better temperature control. The cushion also offers extra support through a unique blend of carefully selected foams.
It has been designed exclusively in Scotland with the input of the Glasgow-based design studios.
The wheelAIR has sparked considerable interest among Paralympic athletes, Scottish business leaders and the wider mobility industry.
The wheelAIR has been particularly successful in Scottish Business innovation competitions. Most recently, Staels won £100K in Scottish Edge in June 2017 were the wheelAIR was famously acclaimed as “the Dyson of the mobility industry” before winning £31K in the Converge Challenge this October. Additionally, the company has recently secured £100K in a seed round of investment.
Staels commented, “The wheelAIR journey has been a whirlwind, I have met so many inspirational people. I even spoke to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about wheelAIR after winning Converge Challenge! But what really inspires me is knowing that something I’ve created could make someone’s life that bit better.”
The company met their official brand ambassador, Michael Kerr in March at a disability trade show, Naidex. Also based in Glasgow, Kerr is the former Rugby Captain for Team GB Wheelchair Rugby Squad, has won two Olympic titles and is a European champion.
“When I first learnt about the benefits the wheelAIR could have for a huge number of chair users and especially for those with spinal cord injuries, I just had to get involved,” says Kerr. “It was fantastic to see such a modern design, it is so important for disability products to be attractive as well as functional.”
Indeed, being ‘cool’ – in both senses of the word – has been a central aim for the company when bringing the wheelAIR to life. Staels, having a background in textiles from her undergraduate degree, has focused on fusing style with utility.
As Staels posits, “the wheelAIR allows you to be cool, and stay cool.”
The company has related plans for healthcare developments, but the wheelAIR remains the current focus.
What can I say in words that resembles this product other than Fantastic, Well here goes ... I have been using wheelAIR for over 2 weeks now and I honestly can say worth every penny, my wheelAIR came well packaged and instructions was easy to follow. Just a really effective product for wheelchair users, keeps me cooler as I have problems with my core temperature. Even been cooler at hospital appoitments, sat in garden ....able to tolerate sitting in my wheelchair longer too without feeling uncomfortable due to perspiration, yes my body still does this but the wheelAIR helps so much in being able to cope better. Innovative design for sure too. You can see every care has been taken in the product. The fan is not noisy but you can hear but I would rather listen to this and be able to be cooler than sitting and being uncomfortable every day. Efficiant as does last on a single charge too but this would different to each individual user too depending on hours used too. This has been a positive step forward to being new to my wheelchair and life on wheels ....positive step foward. I am so happy with the wheelAIR product. One item I will not be without now.
I absolutely love my WheelAIR! I was constantly overheating in my wheelchair, and the WheelAIR solves the problem. It is such an elegant and well thought through design. The backrest is comfortable (actually more comfortable than the one that came with my Quickie Helium), it is easy to operate the fan, the fan is small and discreet, it is simple to install, it is easy to charge and the backrest looks really smart. It ticks all the boxes for both form and function! Thank you!!
Tried it as a prototype it was great then & improved since. It has the magical feeling of a cool body while keeping the old sticky damp body core nice and cool. You feel fresh healthier with this Air support. Keith Shields
It’s been the best thing for my son , he has more energy by being kept cool and it looks so fantastic
Staels Design PO Box 7428
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