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The Safran Foundation and OMNI offer improved mobility to wheelchair users
In 2017, the Safran Foundation for Inclusion formed a partnership with the d.school (Ecole de Design des Ponts et Chaussées) so that students could work on providing improved mobility to young wheelchair users during the course of their studies. Four students, Mathieu, Noé, Robin, and Sulivan, began to work on the project. The team immersed themselves in their work, meeting with disabled people and even going so far as to move around in a wheelchair themselves, in order to better understand the difficulties and obstacles these people face on a daily basis. During the testing phase, they approached Charlotte, who has been disabled since childhood and was immediately drawn to the project and the team's approach.
After two years of work and testing, the team developed a prototype system that motorized any standard commercial wheelchair using an electric scooter (any type) and a standard fitting kit. "The prototype didn't look like much, but once it was installed the memories came flooding back! I was reminded of when I was child, and I wanted to go scootering like my friends – only now it's an electric scooter. I immediately enjoyed the sensations of speed and freedom, of reaching beyond my limits," says Charlotte.
The Safran Foundation for Inclusion, which has supported the project since the outset, co-owns the patents and is funding a portion of the filing fees. It continues to support the team, who have since left school and founded the start-up OMNI, which develops and commercializes the motorization system. The start-up is being incubated at Arts&Métiers for all of the mechanical aspects, and at Station F* for all of the business aspects.
*Start-up campus located in the 13th arrondissement of Paris