Japanese startup studio Quantum won overall design project of the year, against 10 other projects, for its foldable lightweight wheelchair Wheeliy 2.0, as well as being crowned product design of the year.
Wheeliy 2.0 was designed to improve both the lives of users as well as those who support them, further reducing its weight and simplifying usage mechanisms. Kellay, curator of the contemporary programme at the V&A museum, told Dezeen the design "really breaks down barriers in disability access".
"The jury felt that this project deserved the overall design project of the year award because it really elevates wheelchair design," she continued.
Joining Kellay, who is also co-curator of the British Pavilion at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale, was Lara Bohinc of eponymous Bohinc Studio, Arrival chief design officer Jeremy Offer and head of programme and content at London Craft Week Naomi Davenport.
Using magnesium for the main frame and carbon fibre for the wheels, Wheeliy weighs around eight kilograms, giving the user improved mobility and reducing the load when carrying or folding the wheelchair.
Wheeliy 2.0 also features bright yellow visual cues to indicate how to hold, lift and fold the wheelchair intuitively. Kellay explained how the design is "accessible for wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users alike".
"It has these really useful coloured grips on the side, which indicate how to actually fold and move the chair," she continued. "How to actually assist in situations where you might need to help a wheelchair user."
The chair by Tokyo-based Quantum comes in four colour options, adapting to users' personal tastes while maintaining brand recognition.
"Just as eyeglasses, a device to correct vision has become commonplace in our daily lives," said Kellay, "Wheeliy 2.0 really has the ability to break the conventional boundaries of wheelchairs and demonstrates how good design can be applied to different access needs."
The judges believe that the current wheelchair market offering is "appalling", while "Wheeliy is a dignified design solution for an underrepresented group in society".
"This project was designed with inclusivity in mind," they continued. "In a much-maligned sector for design, this clearly addresses some deeply rooted user needs that have been neglected for too long."
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The photography is by Akihiro Kawauchi.