US vets’ wheelchairs will roll on Israeli tech

Nonprofit to provide Acrobat wheels that can go over uneven terrain and get down a curb or stairs, while the shock is absorbed by the wheel itself.

SoftWheel_(courtesy),   criple wheelchair illustration

Wheelchair-bound US army veterans will be among the first users of the revolutionary Acrobat Wheel created by Israeli company SoftWheel to increase their mobility significantly.

As described in ISRAEL21c’s previous coverage, SoftWheel literally reinvented the wheel by incorporating a patented selective suspension mechanism that kicks in when impacted above a certain threshold.

Riders can go over a rocky or uneven terrain, get down a curb or down stairs, while the shock is absorbed by the wheel rather than by the chair or the user’s body.



SoftWheel CEO Daniel Barel tells ISRAEL21c that the company is “very veteran-oriented in Israel and abroad, ” and therefore contacted the US Veterans Administration (VA) to initiate a working relationship. Human Engineering Research Laboratories, run by the VA and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has tested and approved the Acrobat wheel.

“We are in advanced talks with the VA now; these things take time. Meanwhile, there are some private funds in the United States that support veterans, ” says Barel. “If someone was turned down by the VA, they can get equipment through these organizations.

“A few months ago, we contacted the Independence Fund, a $15 million fund that buys medical equipment for veterans. They were very excited to provide vets with the SoftWheel Acrobat until the VA partners with us officially.”



Even lighter than before

The Independence (Indy) Fund,  a nonprofit by-veterans-for-veterans organization based in South Carolina, brought adaptive products manufacturer Resolute Adaptive in the partnership with SoftWheel.

The Tel Aviv-based SoftWheel was incorporated in 2011 with support from Rad-BioMed Technology Accelerator and the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Economy. Since then, it has signed distributor agreements with Living Spinal of California, Da Vinci Mobility of the UK, and Red One Medical Devices in Savannah, Georgia. It also has a partnership with Crawford Composites of North Carolina.

“With Crawford, we are building our wheels out of lighter and stronger carbon instead of magnesium and aluminum, ” says Barel. “We got a BIRD grant for $1.4 million for this project and it will be ready by the end of the year.”

Also in time for the Christmas gift-giving season, SoftWheel’s Fluent wheel for easier urban biking will be rolled out internationally.

israel21c, by Abigail Klein Leichman


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