Wheelchair design in the late 1940's

The memories of a nurse working at Stoke Mandeville in the late 1940's suggest that wheelchair design hadn’t advanced much in the intervening 25 years.

I remember the very earliest self-propelled carts that the patients were using at Stoke Mandeville, pre-cursors to wheelchairs that you could get yourself about in. They were just going out of use when I started at Stoke in 1948. We called them ‘Push-Pulls’; they were a low four-wheeled cart that a patient could sit themselves in and they had two levers each side which they would move backwards and forwards to propel themselves along. Some of them even used to get down the Bell at Stoke Mandeville for a beer in these vehicles. In the summer they could get there and sit outside in the sun with a pint. ( Joan Newton)

The first wheelchairs at Stoke were known as “travaux” chairs. “They were like brown leather armchairs on wheels and apparently very comfortable, even if not very manoeuvrable.” All sports, even netball and basketball, were done in them. Dingwall and Everest and Jennings chairs were first introduced in 1948 and 1949 respectively.

Related content: Joan Newton, Nurse