The quest for disability access to Australia’s beaches
To help find a solution Mr Nguyen, who has been wheelchair-bound since contracting polio as a baby in Vietnam, teamed up with industrial designer Ryan Tilley to create Gecko Traxx.
The polyurethane tyres the duo created go over the standard wheelchair wheels and the inventors say help stop chairs getting bogged.
The pair came up with the solution by taking inspiration from the way gecko’s feet spread out and increase their surface area to stick to rough terrain.
“The wheels have got two little flaps on each side which when they are in contact with the ground flare out,” Mr Tilley, 23 said.
The product has around three times the surface area of a typical wheelchair tyre when on the sand and can also work on grass and snow, they said. The tracks only expand when they hit a surface and become thin when not allowing the chair to be pushed.
Importantly Mr Nguyen said, the device is more usable than bulky off-road tyres, can be put into a backpack and critically can be assembled solely by the user.
“Not needing to transfer to another wheelchair where assistance is needed is great. It is quite empowering to do it yourself,” he said.
The company took out the Next Gen category Award at Australia’s Good Design Awards on Thursday night. Mr Tilley said Australia’s start-up culture was focused more on software design or tech and could do more for the disabled population.
“We are hoping our success will encourage other innovations and start-ups in this space because the whole disability sector needs better products, services and innovation,” Mr Nguyen said.