The first electric-powered wheelchair was conceptualized by Canadian
inventor, George Klein. Klein was born on August 15th, 1904 in
Hamilton, Ontario. He attended the University of Toronto and had a strong
passion for the advancement of medical technology. Klein, alongside his team of
engineers, were working for the National Research Council of Canada in a program
to help injured veterans returning after World War II. Many attempts to invent
a motorized wheelchair were made as far back as 1916, however, no successful
commercial production occurred at that time. Klein considered the project to be
the most rewarding of his career and he is recognized today as the most
productive inventor in Canada in the 20th century.
Being independent is a trait that is often overlooked. Many people enjoy the
company of others but never want to feel helpless and dependent on others.
A few years ago, I fractured my foot and I was in a non-motorized wheelchair
for a few hours before I received my cast and crutches. Those few hours felt
like days and I felt powerless not being able to successfully move around. I relied
on my parents to bring me to the bathroom and even get something to eat. This
temporary impairment gave me a greater appreciation for the advancement of
The invention of the electric wheelchair has given people who have a physical
disability the ability to maintain their independence. It has been
life-changing and inspirational seeing how people can go from relying on others
to move them around to seeing cheerful souls reclaiming their independence.
Today, Klein’s invention has developed in so many ways and ongoing research is
still being done. The electric wheelchair is more than an invention. It is the
key that unlocks the door to maintaining an individual’s independence. It also
allows a person to have more mobility and control over their lives. Where
wheelchairs will go from here is uncertain, but I am confident that it will
continue to touch the lives of others around the world.