Behind the Design of Kameleon

Interview with Eric van Olst; Chief of Product Innovations of Karma

The Kameleon is a new generation pediatric power wheelchair tailored to fit the needs of children aged from 3 to 12 years old.

I have been working with pediatrics for many years. Kameleon’s design concept is not something you intentionally acquire; ideas come from experiences and mistakes you have learned. All those added together, create a vision of an ideal chair for children.

Allow the Child to Be One With the Chair

Karma brand’s core value has always been FIT. That means all designs must be fit based on four dimensions: the user’s unique lifestyle, body dimensions, symptoms, and budget.

Because the wheelchair is part of the child’s identity, we have to allow them to be one with the chair. Between the smallest and the largest seat size of Kameleon, there is a growing dynamic of 85%. The seating system can grow and improve the lifestyle of children suffering from one or more disabilities.

Cushions to Tailor Fit the Body

The Kameleon seat cushions are flexible to be able to compose according to the user’s body; the backrest cushions follow the curve of the user’s back to give them optimal support.

 “The design concept behind the cushions is Lego bricks. One day I saw therapists using towels to stack on the chair. I started to think about why towels are needed to achieve the right seating position? With the team, we decided to design a seat that has a built-in supporting system that could build like Legos.

Support Children As Parents and Therapist Do

We observed how children are taken care of daily by their parents and therapist and came up with the idea of a palm-shaped backrest. Kameleon’s backrest is composed of three pairs of palms, shaped to fit the curve of the human back perfectly. It can be adjusted as the child grows, resulting in less pressure on the body.

After a close study of how the user’s body interacts with the wheelchair, Kameleon puts a strong emphasis on wheelchair biomechanics. Ensuring the user won’t slide on the chair using the recline function, avoiding lateral supports from being misplaced.

Safety Sets Children Free

The center of gravity of the Kameleon chassis is at the bottom, providing stability. When the user reaches a certain height or angle while using power functions like lift, tilt, recline, and the elevating footrests, the chair automatically reduces speed. 

Kids aren’t like adults that think twice; they try and learn from mistakes, so we have designed a chair that will prevent injuries. We simulated different situations of a young child driving for the first time to design a systematically safe approach based on real-world situations.

Let the Child Own Their Experience

“I would like to offer some advice for parents, provide enough space and time for kids’ first driving experience, and try not to interfere. Once the child is familiar with their new wheelchair, start with exercise. Be prepared for rebellion, you may get angry, but that is what you want to achieve. It’s called independence. Kids have their own minds, make their own decisions, and grow confident through this process. Now, you have the same issue that every other parent has.

We wish that every Kameleon child can grow up to be wholly themselves and explore the world bravely.

Eric van Olst


Designer of Karma Kameleon, Chief Innovation Officer of Karma Medical

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