Ernest Mongezi Majenge is a South African innovator helping improve mobility for wheelchair users. His invention has earned him the nickname ‘wheelchair doctor.’ His wheelchair comes with grooves that enable it to be pulled up and down stairs, according to ThisAbility.
Majenge’s invention was born out of research to understand the challenges that wheelchair users face. He realized that accessing buildings with stairs but no elevators or ramps was a major struggle for wheelchair users. So he developed the idea to invent a wheelchair that can climb stairs.
Majenge started his company, 911 The Wheelchair Doctor and Manufacturing, in 2018, as a wheelchair repair service. He then moved into developing his off-road wheelchairs that will cater to people in townships, rural areas and on farms. “The wheelchair works by gripping onto the stairs to protect the user from falling off while someone easily pulls them up and down the stairs,” Majenge told ThisAbility.
He started his company after he won $1,500 in seed funding from Y-Beca and Transnet Matlafatso Centre at Wits University, which was sponsored by the Industrial Development Corporation. He began refurbishing old wheelchairs to make them stair-friendly. It takes Majenge 24 hours to put together all the parts needed for each product, Africanews.com reported.
“The secret of the wheelchair are the wheels,” he told the platform. “The wheelchair has been there for years but we only changed the wheels which has star wheels. We can also transform it to have the normal circle wheels that you can use it on a flat surface. It is a two in one wheels.”
His off-road wheelchairs are already making waves in the international market. According to him, he has received orders from France.
“So far we have in a day we can manufacture four wheelchairs and it depended on the order we get since it is a new start-up company. On the ruby side, there were 5 that were sold in France and in South Africa, there were only four,” he said to Africanews.com.
His innovative wheelchair has won him prestigious awards. He received the South African Breweries Foundation disability empowerment award and Transnet Matlafatso Centre pitching competition in 2021 and 2020, respectively.