JAL's "Bamboo Wheelchair" Wins Good Design Award


JAL's bamboo wheelchair

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On October 3, the "bamboo wheelchair" from Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. (JAL) won a 2011 Good Design Award in the "health care, child care and nursing care" category.

Typical wheelchairs used by air travelers and airports are made of metal parts, which requires them to undergo a special body check at airport security since the chairs set off the metal detectors. To relieve wheelchair users of this hassle, JAL collaborated with Hiji, Oita Prefecture-based Sansoing Co. and the Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo-based National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) to develop the bamboo wheelchair. Excluding the rubber used for the seat, back and tires, the wheelchair is made entirely of bamboo, including the brakes, allowing a person to stay seated while passing through airport security and on to the boarding gate. JAL says that people will feel a warm sense of comfort from the bamboo, which seems more like a fancy piece of furniture than a utilitarian wheelchair.

A JAL spokesperson commenting on the award said, "To meet the evaluation criteria for 'creating a sustainable society,' we decided to make a wheelchair with many of the parts coming from bamboo, which is found in nature and matures quickly. This will be a breakthrough in new ways of using natural materials."

There are now four bamboo wheelchairs in use, with one at Oita Airport, two in the Domestic Terminal of Haneda Airport and one at Osaka Itami Airport.