In the UK alone, there are 1.2million wheelchair users and two-thirds of them require their use regularly according to the NHS.
Wheelchairs offer a significant gateway towards independence as well as an opportunity to rehabilitate.
But this rehabilitation can be a difficult process due to a lack of availability of appropriate equipment, as well as a stigma associated with no longer living an 'active lifestyle'.
This was one of the issues designer, architect and inventor Barbara Alink tried to address when she first invented the Alinker – a mobility device that operates as a “walking bike” and has been championed by Hollywood star Selma Blair.
It aims to fill the gap between a wheelchair and crutches or a cane where mobility is reduced but the user still wants to walk with ease.
Barbara was inspired to come up with the design after walking with her mother.
After they both passed a group of elderly people with walkers and scooters, her mother said, “over my dead body will I ever use one of those!”
Speaking to CBS, she said “Alinker is for everyone who is active, who identifies as an active person but something has happened.
“Like a diagnosis, an amputation, an accident, Parkinson’s, arthritis pains and they want to stay active.”
Barbara’s goal was not to make wheelchairs redundant but to create an alternative for people who want to remain active and have more options available.
“If you need a wheelchair, wheelchairs are fantastic.
“The only thing that is a problem with wheelchairs is not the wheelchairs, it’s the people at eye level that treat them differently.”
“I sometimes refer to the Alinker as a vehicle for social change,” Alink said of the device’s future and how she hopes to distigmatise the use of mobility devices.
“We live in a society that has caused a divide between people with and without disabilities.”
Hollywood actress Selma Blair has been a vocal advocate for the Alinker, saying in an interview with People magazine in July 2019 that it has “changed her life.”
Selma Blair was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2018 and since then has had to deal with muscle spasms, chronic fatigue and inhibited movement that makes it difficult to leave the house.
“I’m unsteady, my legs give way, one drags,” she explained in her interview.
“I can pull it together for short periods or take a certain medication that will help if I take it once in a blue moon to appear publicly.”
Since then she has regularly used the device to get around and has posted updates on her Instagram about how it has helped her.
“#TBF to the time I went to the horse show hoping to ride but fully realised I could not safely stay on. It hit me.” Blair said on one of her posts.
“But without @the_alinker_world I wouldn’t have been able to process that emotion as calmly. With this walk assist I could get to horse shows and watch #mrnibbles grow into a winner.
“There are silver linings and this yellow device has been one.”
The Alinker is currently being sold for £1524 ($1977) but Barbara Alink hopes to make them available through medical insurance as well as supporting and promoting crowdfunding campaigns for people who need them the most.
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