Entrepreneur Portia Mavhungu’s Invention Gives Wheelchair Users Greater Independence

Independence and privacy are taken for granted by so many. Centurion-based entrepreneur Portia Mavhungu realised this when she found herself wheelchair-bound after an accident in 2011.

No longer able to use the toilet on her own, her loss of independence led to depression. “I realised how tough it is for disabled persons,” she says. “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,”  reports the Pretoria Rekord.

Fortunately, this life-changing experience ultimately led to innovation, and an invention that will improve the lives of so many in the future

How the Para-Tube was funded

Mavhungu won a first prize in the GAP Medical Innovation Competition hosted by The Innovation Hub in 2017. She used her R200 000 seed funding prize money and complementary business incubation to further innovate and finalise her invention.

Today Mavhungu is giving independence to those who have previously had to rely on others to get them out of their wheelchair and onto a toilet. She’s designed a wheelchair seating system – the Para-Tube – that enables a disabled person to relieve themselves both independently and discreetly.

how it works

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 goal

I want to be able to showcase the importance of persons with disabilities that it’s just not a product but a product that brings change to one’s life on a personal level.

“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.

“Unfortunately, people with disabilities often bear the burden of adopting negative beliefs about their disability and feel ashamed or embarrassed by it,” she adds.

“I want to be able to showcase the importance of persons with disabilities that it’s just not a product but a product that brings change to one’s life on a personal level,” Mavhungu told Ventureburn.

building a better, disability-inclusive future

“Disability is part of the human condition. This marvellous invention could help dismiss those negative self-beliefs and provide more independence to disabled persons,” said CEO of The Innovation Hub advocate Pieter Holl. “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.”

Covid-19 affected production this year, but Mavhungu plans to distribute the Para-Tube across South Africa in 2021.

Sources: Pretoria Rekord, Ventureburn