Becoming A Product Inventor And Entrepreneur After A Spinal Cord Injury

Andrew Slorance, UK

Summary: After falling out of a tree aged 14, Andrew was left with a spinal cord injury that resulted in paralysis from the chest level down. Andrew had no choice but to use what he described as “a big, heavy, ugly wheelchair that was difficult to use”. The irony of the situation was that the mobility device designed to give him more freedom actually made him feel disabled in a way he had never felt before.

First game changer: A willingness to challenge the status quo

From as early as 16, Andrew was already questioning the status quo in the wheelchair manufacturing industry. He sensed that wheelchair development was severely lagging behind other industries and started to think of ways that he could improve the wheelchair.

Second Game Changer: Taking a risk

Andrew had a well paid, secure TV production job, but he was willing to take the risk and follow his passion to revolutionise the wheelchair. He quit his job and literally started making home made prototypes to see if he could bring his vision to life.

Third Game Changer: Never Giving Up

After years of hard work and building a cutting edge, transformational wheelchair called Carbon black, things were looking up for Andrew. Unfortunately, a series of unforeseen events meant Andrew was essentially fired from the business he created, and worst of all he was temporarily blocked from developing certain accessibility products.
Many people would have thrown in the towel here, but Andrew and his wife hung on and eventually after a court case they where able to start developing new products. Andrew literally started his business again and built out a new range of innovative wheelchair bag options that are now sold around the world. Not willing to rest on his laurels, Andrew still felt he had unfinished business in wheelchair development, and started to develop a new smart wheelchair called the Phoenix i.
Whilst developing this product, he heard about an innovation competition, but had reservations about entering and by his own admission nearly didn’t do it. Something inside him pushed him past this uncomfortable space, which ultimately led to him entering the competition and winning $1 million from the Toyota-run global Mobility Unlimited Challenge to bring his smart wheelchair to market.

The little things:

Improvisation: As a person with a spinal cord injury navigating the world, Andrew has learnt to improvise. So many of us are scared to start anything because we don’t have all the skills or equipment. In contrast, Andrew has always been open to improvise. When he built the Phoenix i, the initial prototypes were made from carving architecture foam with a craft knife and wrapping it around carbon fibre.

Teaching yourself: The development of 3D technology has transformed product design. Andrew did not have professional training in 3D design but was willing to teach himself from you tube videos and through years of trial and error he has managed to develop the necessary skills as he has gone along.

Learn More About Andrew’s Work

To listen to the Andrew Slorance podcast please click below

Click Here.

Product Development: Phoenix Instinct travel and daily bagsAndrew has worked on a number of highly innovative wheelchair products over the years. Initially, he developed the carbon black wheelchair system but when he left that venture he built some innovative wheelchair bag options called the Phoenix Instinct travel and daily bags which are available all over the world. To learn more Click Here

Make It

Product Development: The Phoenix i smart wheelchair
Andrews most recent project is the Phoenix i. The Phoenix i’s ultra-light carbon fibre frame aids manoeuvrability, while the chair features a powered braking system which detects when the user is going downhill, managing the descent automatically. To learn more about the Phoenix i please click here