R&D Wheelchair Innovation

I’m a firm believer that innovation is in every single one of us. I classify innovation into two different categories. Some of us have an instinct to innovate while others have an instinct to problem solve. I was recently at a charity event and someone asked me a question I am frequently asked when meeting new people: What do you do for a living?

I work for Quantum Rehab/ Pride Mobility, the manufacturer of the wheelchair I’m in. Most of the time, people’s respond with, “Wow. That’s awesome. So, what do you do for them?” I personally don’t put a label or give myself a specific job title for what I do for Quantum and Pride. I tell most people I’m a professional problem solver. This is because my passion is to help other individuals with disabilities live the most independent and free lives they can. This all starts with the ability to problem solve.

Have you ever gone to a store and looked at a product and said to yourself, “Man, I thought of that years ago.” Or, “Wow, I should have thought of that.” I know we all have done this. Well, congratulations! Your idea was an innovation. Someone else just made that innovation a reality. I remember one of my first meetings I had with our R&D team at Quantum. There were ten guys sitting at this big table. I nervously rolled my chair into this meeting. Keep in mind that at the time, I’m 18 years old. The meeting started and everyone was throwing ideas around. Finally, someone asked me what I thought of my chair and I told them that I like it, but it could be better and more functional. The meeting went silent and I thought I was going to be kicked out. To my surprise, the opposite happened. I was asked question after question on what I would change.

Believe me, I had a laundry list of things I brought to their attention. These were things that had been overlooked simply because these people don’t live in a wheelchair. It’s not their fault. What are they supposed to know about being in a wheelchair? And, what am I supposed to know about being an engineer? I brought the issues to their attention and they came up with a solution which led to innovation.

Me, Mark Smith and Brian Anderson came up with the fender lights that are now on Quantum wheelchairs. It all started because I would take the train from Manhattan upstate to my parents’ house at night. Even though there are a lot of lights in Midtown, when you are in the smaller neighborhoods, it can be very dark. When I crossed the street, I was always afraid I would be hit by a vehicle. I also had trouble seeing potholes and big cracks in the pavement. I ended up having a few experiences with potholes that I didn’t see at night. One day, I talked to Mark about not being able to see. We brainstormed and then called a meeting with R&D. We explained the situation and voila! Now we have LED fender lights standard with iLevel and the Edge 3 power chair.

The lights served two purposes. First, they allow you to see in front of you. Second, they allow cars to see you. We took what was a real problem and our team at Quantum turned it into innovation. Some of our best ideas you see on our Quantum chairs have been from real life feedback from our consumers. These were issues that were taken and turned into solutions to make life easier for our consumers. What I love about our products is that our team listens to our problems. They come up with a plan or strategy to fix or make the problem better and innovate to make the best products on the market.

About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.