A Western Australian manufacturer has produced the first electric wheelchair in Australia to meet stringent new national design standards.
Disability Services Minister Eric Ripper today launched the landmark State-made Ambassador Brumby wheelchair range, produced by Avion Australia, Cloverdale, with a call for other Western Australian manufacturers to consider opportunities in designing and producing equipment for people with disabilities.
The new WA-made wheelchair range had been designed with the assistance of the Department of State Development, and produced in consultation with the Spastic Welfare Association and the Independent Living Centre, which helped with the testing of prototypes.
Developed over 12 months' design and testing work, the Ambassador Brumby was considered to be a major step forward in Australian-made wheelchairs for large people, those with poor motor control, and those who needed to travel over rough or uneven surfaces.
"This new wheelchair is a great example of Western Australian ingenuity and the benefits which can be achieved by co-operation between non-government agencies, people with disabilities and the business sector," Mr Ripper said.
"There is a market worth hundreds of thousands of dollars which is relatively untapped in this State - the production of specialised equipment for people with disabilities."
An estimated 141,000 Western Australians had mobility difficulties and about 7,000 used wheelchairs. Some 2,000 of these used electric wheelchairs.
"Western Australia is up with the world leaders in producing low-technology equipment for domestic use but too much high-tech equipment, such as hoists and wheelchairs, is currently being imported from interstate and overseas, despite the wealth of talent and skill here."
The Minister said the situation was particularly ironic given the current high rate of unemployment because production of more disability equipment could create jobs.
Mr Ripper said the Bureau for Disability Services would work with the Ministry for State Development to encourage greater local manufacturing of disability equipment.
"The Independent Living centre in Shenton Park already assists manufacturers in developing new products for people with disabilities and I am sure they would be keen to advise potential new entrants to this market."
The Minister said other success stories in this field included Glide Products - the only other WA company to manufacture wheelchairs - KDB engineering, which is Australia's biggest manufacturer of rehabilitation equipment, and The Second Skin company, which was attracting worldwide interest in the production of materials to assist posture and burns recovery.