MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis man hopes his invention will give people who are paralyzed new wheels.
“They watch the doors open and that’s an eye breaker right there,” said Phil Schlangen.
Schlangen lost mobility in his legs and has limited mobility in his arms after a freak diving accident on the Mississippi River just after high school. For years he used a ramp to get into his car, but a scary incident changed that.
“I accidentally fell backwards three feet down and landed on my head,” said Schlangen.
It took a few years, but Schlangen, who is a mechanical engineer, came up with the idea of KAS—Kneeling Air Suspension. It involves using air shocks to lift and lower a vehicle completely to the ground using a remote control.
“I would get a better idea and write it down and I would make it better before I bought the pickup truck and started cutting and welding,” Schlangen said.
Schlangen bought a Chevy Silverado. He cut out the frame in the driver’s seat to give his wheelchair plenty of room. He then installed the air compression shocks.
Schlangen has been driving the vehicle — using a special steering wheel — for six years, and already got a patent on his design. He says KAS has a gravity based drop in case of an emergency, and less of the truck needs to be cut out since a ramp needs more square footage.
Schlangen hopes to find a partner to bring KAS — and independence — to the masses.
The mechanical engineer put around $25,000 of his own money into the project. He says his concept would expand wheelchair access beyond traditional vans to include SUV’s and pick-up trucks.