Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. was awarded a 2008 da Vinci Award® from the Michigan Chapter of the U.S. National Multiple Sclerosis Society at an awards ceremony held on September 20th at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan, USA. The award recognized Yamaha Motor's "JW-II" electric power assist unit for use with manual wheelchairs.
The now world-renowned da Vinci Awards® were created by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 2001 to recognize the most innovative products and projects developed to enable people with physical disabilities to participate and contribute in all aspects of society. Yamaha Motor is the first Japanese company to win this coveted award.
The JW-II unit, which is mounted on a manual wheelchair to convert it into a "pushrim activated power assisted wheelchair," applies technology developed by Yamaha Motor for its PAS electro-hybrid bicycles, which operate by means of a fusion of human power and "power assist" from an electric motor. When mounted on a manual wheelchair, the JW-II unit relieves much of the physical stress encountered when operating a wheelchair manually uphill or over longer distances, without sacrificing the inherent lightness and ease of use of a manual wheelchair. The unit does not interfere with the folding of collapsible type wheelchairs for compact storage and transport in automobiles.
Since the unit can be fitted on a manual wheelchair the owner has become accustomed to, and because it is operated in the same way as a manual wheelchair (with pushrims), the JW-II unit helps maintain residual function. Meanwhile, the power assist reduces the user's physical load, which helps expand the user's range of mobility and thus enables greater participation in society. These are the merits acknowledged in the 2008 da Vinci Award® selection.
Yamaha Motor has been involved in wheelchair development since the 1990s; this activity is one way that the company contributes to society in the fields of health, welfare and accommodating a graying society. In the development of these wheelchairs, the company has employed advanced technologies garnered from the development of products such as industrial robots and the PAS electro-hybrid bicycles. Presently, Yamaha Motor markets and services six types of electric wheelchairs designed to help improve the quality of life of seniors and people with physical disabilities, increase their independence and lighten the load of care-givers with new levels of convenience. Since 1999, the JW-II unit has been supplied to overseas market on an OEM basis and has won high acclaim internationally.
The da Vinci Award®-winning JW-II unit and other wheelchair products will be on display at the 35th International Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition 2008 (Organizer: Japan National Council of Social Welfare, Health and Welfare Information Association) from September 24 (Wed.) to 26 (Fri.) at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition hall.