ATSA’s members are a talented group. They create, manufacture and source some incredibly innovative and adaptable assistive technology products. Our members solve problems to give people independence and the chance to try new things.
Wherever their products are made, all our members make huge differences to the lives of their clients. However, it certainly is nice to have some Australian-made products going head-to-head with the best in the world, whether it’s here or abroad.
We spoke to three of our members who talked about some of challenges they face as Australian-made manufacturers as well as the benefits local manufacturing can bring to the end user.
“We surprise people with how customised we can make our wheelchairs,” says Leon Callahan, Director of Mogo Wheelchairs, an Australian manufacturer of custom wheelchairs. “We have three distinctive chair shapes or models, but within that, we can customise a wheelchair for all ages and size. I think our tallest customer is six foot nine,” says Leon.
“Everything is done in house,” says Leon. “We can half build the chair and you can come and do an unpaid trial to make sure you’re happy with everything. Then we can make changes or complete the chair.”
Continuing Mogo’s tradition of innovation, Leon is incorporating 3D printing. “3D printing means I can just print a part if I need it,” says Leon. “I’d like to get to the point where if someone needs a custom part to their wheelchair, like a footplate, I’ll be able to scan their feet and print a custom footplate.”
Another innovative Australian wheelchair manufacturer is Magic Mobility, founded by Ash Daff in 1994. Magic was born from Ash identifying a gap in the market and working to find a way to fill it. He discovered many wheelchair users felt frustrated by the limitations of their wheelchair. As such, Magic’s focus is on building chairs that allow users to go anywhere and make choices based on desire rather than necessity.
Today, the team gets pictures sent to them from around the world.
“We’ve got a client in France who’s a prolific mountain climber, and he takes his chair up the Matterhorn in Switzerland,” says Erin Girvan, Marketing and Communications Manager. “In an average week I’ll receive a range of client images; from simply going to the local shops or around their home, or traipsing around cobblestoned cities, to users taking our chairs across sand dunes in the Middle East, or even in the snow. We’re proud to make powerchairs that allow our users to tackle their everyday terrain – whatever that may be. Our drive is to enable our users to experience a world that’s not flat,” says Erin.
Manufacturing in Australia keeps Magic Mobility’s engineers empathetic to customers and production. “The engineers are in the unique position of seeing people who come in for fittings each day. They’re able to respond to their questions about the chairs and to get feedback firsthand. Our powerchairs are built to be modular and configurable. Ultimately, our focus is to provide our users with genuine choice and allow them to live their lives the way they choose,” says Erin.
Para Mobility is another Australian manufacturer making it possible for people to experience the most Australian of activities — swimming, sailing, and going to the local pool.
“As Australians, it’s our core purpose to ensure that all people have the chance to experience the joys of water. That’s why we do what we do. We want people to enjoy that feeling of floating in the water and take in the atmosphere and laughter at the local pool,” says Sally Farrow, General Manager of Para Mobility.
Para Mobility’s Australian-made equipment is built to meet the stringent standards in Australia and to tolerate harsh Australian conditions of heat and salt, sunshine and chlorine.
“Also, our products are built to meet the Building Code of Australia (BCA) requirements relating to access to Pools” says Sally. “We also manufacture a plastic aquatic wheelchair that’s specifically made for Australian conditions and won’t heat up outside in the hot sun.
Being in Australia, we have had to think through the conditions our customers will face and ensure we can adapt our Assistive technology products to meet their needs. Being a local manufacturer enables us to make a part or further customise one of our Pool Hoists to any Dulux colour that tickles their fancy or matches their fence.
It’s great being a local Aussie Manufacturer, and when we’re getting approached internationally because our equipment works here, it’s a very satisfying feeling.
Around the world, designers of assistive technology are inspired by each other. It’s rewarding to think that our members are contributing to that loop of innovation, meaning people overseas will benefit from Australian-made technology and at home the standards continue to rise, whether the products are imported or made here. Ultimately, all anyone wants is for the client to have much choice and freedom as our industry can provide.
Interested in learning what ATSA membership can offer?
Visit www.atsa.org.au or call (02) 8006 7357
Join now and be part of the Assistive Technology industry’s voice.
If you are interested in exhibiting at one of the ATSA Independent Living Expo’s please email email@example.com