Picture above: Dimitris Kartalis and friend!!!
Dimitris Kartalis lives and works in Thessaloniki, Greece. For more than 10 years helps paralyzed or/and amputated animals, to live a happy, active life by designing and constructing special wheelchairs. This is a fragment of his amazing story and his concept about medical design, destined to non-humans, but still as …humanistic, elaborate and inspired as you could ever imagine. Enjoy!
All4design-design4All: How did you start designing and making wheelchairs- kinetic aids for domestic animals, who have been through amputation or (partial) paralysis?
Dimitris Kartalis: In 2004, our little dog Lisa got her two back legs paralyzed , from a spinal cord injury , caused by a cat attack . That very incident was extremely frustrating and quite unfortunate for our family. Our Lisa was super-healthy and suddenly she could not use her back legs, therefore she could not walk. We proceeded, under our vet’s instructions to a very difficult and eventually unsuccessful operation. Then I realized I needed to find a way to help our little dog, since euthanasia was not an option for us. I started looking for animal wheelchairs on the Internet and I found exactly what I needed, in the USA. Unfortunately the specific wheelchair was extremely expensive, but I could not give up, since I was watching Lisa so eager to walk and live. I was always a maker and a craftsman, that’s my hobby, so I started copying relevant wheelchair-constructions from photos I found on the internet. This is how, after a certain amount of effort , I ended up making my first wheelchair for Lisa. Lisa was not afraid of the trial, she was strong and confident and so happy to walk under the support of her new accessory. We were all so happy to witness Lisa “driving” her new wheels!People on the street started to express interest and asking me questions about the wheelchair, during our walks. The first orders started to line up.
A4D-D4A: How many wheel chairs have you made approximately, up to this day? For what kind of animals (dogs, horses etc)?
D.K: I am not aware of the exact number, it’s been more than 10 years now I keep up with this type of activity-try to help disabled animals, so they lead a happy life,-like any other healthy creature. One thing I am certain of, is that the number of animals suffering a paralysis, steadily increases. In my opinion, there are two possible reasons for that: nowadays the animal owners are not ashamed of walking out their handicapped animal. Furthermore, people in general, started to realize that disability is NOT a disease. It is a difficulty, for the animal and its family, that we can all deal with. I cannot stress out enough that euthanasia is NOT a solution in these cases. Can you think of a similar situation, where you would have to put a family member, a human being to “sleep”? Please consider the answer to that “option”.
A4D-D4A: Have you in mind any type of education-training, seminar, school or university- specializing on that specific field: medical/industrial design for animal prosthetics /kinetic aids?
D.K: You will surprised but I do not have any academic qualifications directly related to animal-wheelchair design. As I mentioned earlier, I started copying similar constructions from the Internet and I slowly elaborated on technical details, ex. assembling different components or designing a better seat etc. This way, I evolved my technique and my design, so I facilitated the owners of animals addressing to me for help , together with improving my own skills.
A4D-D4A: Is there a specific construction, tool, object, garment, application or other- you discovered recently and got really impressed by its design?
D.K: The most important part in the construction of an animal wheel-chair is balance and durability. You need to carefully adjust all the different parts together, specially the central axis with the side extensions. This is where special components are needed, mostly custom-made in heavy machinery , so the safety and strength of the wheelchair are reassured. While surfing on the Internet, I discovered a big company’s new release, a state-of-the-art machinery, where one can produce special components, like the ones I use for my own wheelchairs , in a quick and effective way.
A4D-D4A: Which you consider the most difficult step in design, construction and maintenance of a wheelchair for an animal?
D.K: The most complicated stage is certainly the design of the seat, which is the part supporting the animal’s abdomen. It is vital because it has to provide horizontal support to the whole upper body of the animal. Also in male animals, further design process is needed, regarding the lower abdomen area, the genitals etc. The rest of the construction is as easy as it can be. I have created a guide, featuring outlines and explanations, concerning the measurements the owners need to provide (how and where they should measure their cat or dog), in order for me to design and create the wheelchair that will accommodate the animal needs.
Thanks so much Dimitris Kartalis!
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