Winter Quarter 2011 Course Announcement

Perspectives in Assistive Technology

David L. Jaffe, MS and Professor Drew Nelson
Tuesdays & Thursdays   4:15pm - 5:30pm
Main Quad, Building 370, Classroom 370


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Thursday, March 3rd

photo of Ralf Hotchkiss

Wheelchair Fabrication in Developing Countries
Ralf Hotchkiss
San Francisco State University

Abstract: Ralf Hotchkiss will track the designing of the Whirlwind Wheelchair from its beginning 30 years ago to the present, and on into the future. From the first design breakthroughs of barefoot blacksmiths to the high tech testing and manufacturing methods of today, surprise breakthroughs in basic wheelchair design have come from the backyard inventors of some 40 developing countries. These inventors, along with several graduates of the Stanford, form the Whirlwind Network of wheelchair riders and designers. Their goal is not only to make wheelchairs available in the poorest of countries; it is to radically improve the durability and rough-ground mobility so that wheelchair riders can live and work in environments that they can only dream of visiting today. Ralf will show unfinished designs that open wide opportunities for new developments, and he will make a plea for the innovative designers of Stanford to enter into one of today's most fulfilling areas of invention and international development work.

Biosketch: Ralf Hotchkiss is an inventor and Whirlwind wheelchair designer whose company, Whirlwind Wheelchair International, designs wheelchairs for use and manufacture in developing countries, involving wheelchair riders in all of its projects and activities. The organization's mission is "to make it possible for every person in the developing world who needs a wheelchair to obtain one that will lead to maximum personal independence and integration into society". Ralf is a graduate of Oberlin College and a 1989 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Contact information:
Ralf Hotchkiss
6505 Farallon Way
Oakland, CA  94611
whirlwind -at-
Lecture Material:
Pre-lecture slides - 154 Kb pdf file
Abelism video
Audio - 1:15:00 - 17.1 Mb mp3 file
Ableism Commercial
Clip from "Talk" by the Disability Rights Commission (UK)
Tough, Low Cost Wheelchairs Needed in Haiti, Around Third World - 5:31 - PBS News Hour - 02/18/2010
Ralf Hotchkiss & His Whirlwind Wheelchairs
Hotchkiss' da Vinci Spirit Recognized
Manufacturing assistive devices in developing countries
Independence through Mobility

Updated 03/07/2011

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