Dive into Design: Human Centered Design & the GRIT Freedom Chair

Design, prototype, test, repeat. We cycled through that process dozens of times as we developed the GRIT Freedom Chair. Our process is rooted in a philosophy known as "human-centered design." This customer-centric approach involves iterative prototyping and careful consideration of the entire product experience. We didn't want to just make a pretty product. We wanted to make a product that met important user needs. We wanted to make a product that would help people achieve great things. 

Prototype after prototype was tested with wheelchair riders around the world, and we gathered key feedback to make the chair better. Little by little, we progressed to the current model of the GRIT Freedom Chair, which we're proud to stand behind. 

Looking back, we can point to specific features that were informed by wheelchair riders who were involved in our design process. Hop on the engineering train! We're diving into design:

1. The Backpad on the Seat

The original design of the GRIT Freedom Chair had a simple seatback, much like a regular wheelchair. In early testing, we found that riders were getting pushed back over the seat whenever they pushed hard on the levers. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and with nothing to lean against, it meant the rider's body went backwards. These early riders helped us design and shape the backpad, which braces between the shoulder blades and prevents that backward learning, much like the benchpress bench in a weight room. 


2. Lever Storage

We figured out early on that the levers needed to be detachable. This gets them out of the way for transfers, and makes the GRIT Freedom Chair usable off the trail. But once they are removed, where should they go? We didn't want loose parts that could get lost, so we knew they needed to store somewhere on the frame. Our initial design had the levers stored vertically, behind the seat of the chair. Wheelchair riders who tested this version showed us that this was not a very accessible location. Those with more limited upper body function couldn't turn around in the seat to do this independently. We went back to the drawing board and came up with the current solution, which has the levers store directly along the seat. In addition to being out the way, the levers cover the chain area during transfers and when using the chair indoors.


3. Transporting it by car

Early on the design process (and continuously throughout) individuals told us about the importance of being able to take the GRIT Freedom Chair with them. There are lots of trails to be explored that don't start at your front door! Many other pieces of adaptive equipment are great for the specific purpose, but hard to transport-- for example, handcycles and tank chairs. We designed the GRIT Freedom Chair to disassemble without any tools to fit in the trunk of a small car. We know many people have vans and trucks, but we wanted to the GRIT Freedom Chair to be accessible for everyone, regardless of trunk size. We decided to disassemble rather than fold, so that we could maintain the structural integrity on the trail, and to make it each piece that has to be lifted incrementally lighter. 


4. The Footrest

Several aspects of the footrest are attributed to feedback from our adventurous prototype-testers. It's angled back with an upward fold, which helps to keep your feet from slipping off. They helped us figure out that there would be no one-size-fits-all strap setup, so we designed in a range of slots to allow individuals to customize their own solution. Riders also suggested the grip tape that we're using to keep the feet from sliding around.

Design, prototype, test, repeat. We're continuing to use this process as we develop accessories for the GRIT Freedom Chair. We always welcome and appreciate feedback from our riders, as they help us make the product better for everyone. 

Time to hit the trail!

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The GRIT Freedom Chair is the most versatile chair on the market, designed from the ground up to handle any terrain. From trails to grass to snow, the Freedom Chair is built for you to push yourself. Born out of research at MIT, the Freedom Chair's patented easy-push levers reduce shoulder strain and put you in control of your mobility. Learn more about the GRIT Freedom Chair at www.gogrit.us