Rider Originated Design

Whirlwind Wheelchair Who We Are

Wheelchair riders know best what they need in a wheelchair
to be able to carry out their activities of daily living.

The rider-originated design is a defining principle of Whirlwind that keeps the rider’s environmental and use requirements at the front of our minds. Since 1979, Whirlwind’s founder Ralf Hotchkiss, himself a paraplegic, has traveled all over the world in chairs he has built himself to learn from other wheelchair rider/builders in small shops what features are necessary for a good wheelchair that will be used in the rough conditions that are prevalent throughout the developing world.


Durability and repairability mean the chair will last a long time, lowering the overall cost of the chair over its lifetime. The RoughRider’s much greater stability makes it the chair of choice for safety and freedom, as well as for use in rough environments. Wheelchair riders as much as anyone else deserve to have a product that is visually appealing, so aesthetic concerns are as important as function in our approach to design. Our wheelchairs really work where people actually live, giving riders the freedom to go where they need to go. Recent innovations in Whirlwind’s wheelchairs include upgrades in the support for posture, increased durability, and increased size range.


Our wheelchair is manufactured in large, medium and small-scale shops in Vietnam, China, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and the Republic of Georgia. They are shipped all over the world.


In the wheelchair design process, each design requires the production of 3 to 6 prototypes before all bugs are worked out and it is fully tested. We currently use rapid prototyping at a factory in China for all but our initial prototypes. Each prototype iteration costs about $4000 including shipping to the U.S.

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