Beneficial Designs hosts international tour |

Beneficial Designs hosts international tour

Sharlene Irete

by Sharlene Irete

An international group of people attended a week-long wheelchair conference at MontBleu Oct. 19-23. Part of the conference was spent at a tour of Beneficial Designs in Minden on Oct. 22.

Fifteen people from Scotland, Italy, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Pennsylvania, Ohio and California toured the facility and checked out the company’s current research project to develop universal design guidelines for fitness equipment and personal mobility devices.

Beneficial Designs is one of four wheelchair testing labs in the United States. Representatives from wheelchair manufacturers in the U.S. and from around the world meet twice a year in different locations to establish universal design guidelines. This was the first year members of the conference came to visit Beneficial Designs in Minden.

“The meeting was very successful,” said Beneficial Designs director Peter Axelson. “Over 40 tests were done between four working groups. The wheelchair testing involves wheelchair seating, the cushion devices, upholstery, back support, pelvic restraint. The job is to make it comfortable for somebody.”

Other Beneficial Designs projects involve designing an accessible vehicle barrier for trails that prevents motorized vehicle access but allows non-motorized users and personal mobility devices, such as wheelchairs. The company also tests playground equipment and designs technologies that allow people of varying abilities to participate in recreational activities.

Beneficial Designs trails assistant Jeremy Vlcan discussed the company’s universal trails assessment project with the tour group.

Trail assessment information concerns grade, cross slope, width and the surface of hiking paths and trails for people using wheelchairs and other personal mobility devices, as well as for hikers or bikers, Vlcan said.

The inventory assessment process involves collecting information with the use of the Wheeled Instrumentation Sensor Package cart with a software program, sensor box, GPS and camera pushed along the trail like a stroller. Signs are made giving information about trail length and grade and whether the trail is for hikers, dogs on leash, bikes or equestrians.

“The signs are posted at trail intersections. We can also make maps to give an idea of conditions and what to expect on the trail,” said Vlcan. “They give objective, specific trail assessment information, like a fast food fact label.”

Beneficial Designs is at 2240 Meridian Blvd. Suite C, Minden. Information at 783-8822 or