Portia Mavhungu won the GAP Medical Innovation Competition hosted by The Innovation Hub for her seating system that will help people with disabilities; now she is ready to share it with the world.
Johannesburg, South Africa (03 December 2020) – Mavhungu is the 2017 first prize winner of the GAP Medical Innovation Competition hosted by The Innovation Hub (TIH). She used her R 200 000 seed funding prize money and complementary business incubation to further innovate and finalise her invention, the ‘Para Tube’. A wheelchair seating system that allows a person with disabilities to use the toilet without having to be lifted out of their chair.
“Not all disabilities are equal,” says Mavhungu. “The privilege that one has plays a major role – access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities are all factors to take into account. I want to help improve the lives of those who use a wheelchair and don’t have assistance,” she adds.
“Unfortunately, people with disabilities often bear the burden of adopting negative beliefs about their disability and feel ashamed or embarrassed by it. Disability is part of the human condition, this marvellous invention could help dismiss those negative self-beliefs and provide more independence to disabled persons,” says Advocate Pieter Holl, CEO of The Innovation Hub.
The invention is designed to help those with disabilities relieve themselves discretely. How the device works is simple: the middle part of the seat pulls out by means of a handle and flips to make the shape of a toilet. The product makes use of chemicals, biodegradable disposable bags, seating and sanitisers.
Mavhungu’s inspiration comes from spending seven months in a wheelchair herself, after breaking her pelvis. “I realised how tough it is for disabled persons,” explains Mavhungu. “I found it was a challenge trying to use the bathroom by myself, and felt like I had lost my independence when I had to ask for help,” she adds.
Following a setback in production due to the pandemic, Mavhungu plans to roll out her invention in nursing homes, hospitals and medical facilities in the new year.
“I want to be able to showcase the importance of this product to persons with disabilities, showing them that it is not just a product, but a product that brings change to one’s life on a personal level,” Mavhungu says.
The South African Government emphasises the importance of disabled persons being seen as equal role players in the economy and making sure that women and children with disabilities will be protected and seen as equal citizens within their communities.
“It is our responsibility as a nation to drop the stigmas associated with disabled persons, and to start building a better future; a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable world, now, and in the future,” concludes Advocate Holl.