Motorised armrest for wheelchairs


Disability concerned : Motor disability

Topics: Leisure, Nutrition, Independence

WILLIFT makes daily tasks easier for patients with limited mobility in their upper limbs. Williams, one of our team members, uses a wheelchair to get around, but drinking, eating and brushing his teeth are only possible with the help of the nursing staff around him. These daily gestures are evidence of the loss of autonomy that people with upper limb motor difficulties experience. With WILLIFT, we are developing a technical solution to help these people regain their independence: a motorised armrest integrating planar and vertical movement. We are proposing a prototype that can be easily and non-stigmatisingly integrated into different environments: wheelchair, chair, bed, bathroom, etc. The control of the motorised armrest is based on the detection of the user’s intention of movement, allowing an adjustable degree of assistance to be provided, adapting to the patient’s abilities, particularly to their evolution over time (rehabilitation, degenerative diseases, etc.).


The objectives of this project were to improve the current prototype at the technical level (mechanical design review, production technique), as well as at the user experience/aesthetics level, but also to undertake our research on the medical certifications/patents needed/possible to access the market. We were able to finalise the construction of the prototype thanks to this project and to gather essential feedback (occupational therapists, designer, mechanical review) for our next iterations.

Similarly to the first call, we learned a lot about the importance and richness of interdisciplinarity and participatory methodology. By forming a focus group of 7 occupational therapists and our designer, we were able to build a common and co-constructive reflection on the aesthetics of assistive devices. Through this focus group, we were able to confirm the medical conditions that could be helped by WILLIFT. We carried out a whole process of reasoning and learning around the integration of the device into the daily lives of people with disabilities, but also of their family carers and members of the medical profession. In addition, we were able to obtain information from the IGE/IPI about patents. We now have a better understanding of the patents and the research to be done. We have also done extensive information on medical certification and QMS systems. We now have a better rigour and traceability for our product development, know the class of our device and how to write the documents needed for certification. We have also been able to get to know the Swiss reimbursement system, the National Health Insurance and the foundations. Furthermore, thanks to the mechanical review we conducted with The CountDown Company, we challenged our prototype on a mechanical level and had to learn to document our work more extensively. Finally, we were able to strengthen our project management and communication with the medical world.

Several tasks are being considered for the continuation of the project. Two tasks are already underway and will be continued over the next few months: improving the mechanics of the prototype with The Countdown Company, and working on the design and aesthetics of the device.

 We are currently working on a simpler product: a wheelchair foam that detects the user’s movement intentions and will be able to control a computer/screen. This product will allow the lucrative reintegration of people with disabilities. This device will then be used to control the entire Willift. The move to a simpler product will allow us to have a product on the market more quickly, without the need for medical certification, giving us validation of control by users and the means to propel and iterate on the product to reach the final Willift device.

A wheelchair with the prototype motorised armrest



Amaëlle Bidet


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