Entrepreneur invents wheelchair that climbs stairs
22 Mar 2021
By Samantha Malebana
An invention by a 27-year-old innovator from Free State is promising accommodative mobility for South African wheelchair users.
Ernest Mongezi Majenge, also known as ‘the wheelchair doctor’ has manufactured a wheelchair with grooves that enable it to be pulled up and down stairs.
“The wheelchair works by gripping on to the stairs to protect the user from falling off while someone easily pulls them up and down the stairs,” said Majenge.
Majenge started his company, 911 The Wheelchair Doctor and Manufacturing, in 2018 after he won R25 000 in seed funding from Y-Beca and Transnet Matlafatso Centre (at Wits University) which was sponsored by the Industrial Development Corporation.
“The company was founded after we discovered that wheelchair users experience lack of accessibility of the wheelchair repair service and the affordability of the wheelchair repairs,” he said.
Even though the company is based in Johannesburg, Majenge said, “Our clients come from all over the country, get their wheelchairs repaired within 24 hours, which is much better compared to when they used to get their wheelchairs after two to four weeks from the repairing services.”
Majenge said he did some research to understand more about the challenges that wheelchair users were facing and discovered that accessing buildings with stairs but no elevators nor ramps was a struggle, and so were buildings with elevators when the was no electricity. That is when he developed the idea to invent a wheelchair that can climb stairs.
To create the wheelchair, he was assisted by skilled technicians who have been working in the industry for years. Majenge’s first attempt at creating a wheelchair that can climb stairs was in late 2018, and it took him a year before he was successful.
“We have now sold five wheelchairs from the first model to people in Paris. I am still working on improving the wheelchair so it can be lighter. The final improved wheelchair will be available in the market by end of April ,” Majenge said.
Thomas Ngwana (26) from Pretoria, who was used to test-drive Majenge’s wheelchair, told ThisAbility that “This is a life-changing invention that will bring significant change to people who use wheelchairs in terms of accessing buildings with stairs that do not offer elevators as an alternative and in situations where there is no electricity or the elevator is not working.
“When I was on that wheelchair I felt more secure from falling off because when you are being pulled up the wheelchair grips onto the stairs to balance you from falling off and I would recommend it to anyone using a wheelchair,” said Ngwana.
Majenge is working on developing a wheelchair that will be best suitable even for rural and township area conditions that will ensure sustainability and longer life span of the wheelchairs.
He told ThisAbility, “I studied auditing accounting, only to realise that I’m more passionate and interested in entrepreneurship.”