Customizing a car for the disabled is an incredibly expensive process, and until 2013 was the only option for the 1.7 million wheelchair drivers in the U.S. and over 25 million across the world. Stacy Zoern, a former intellectual property lawyer in Austin, Texas, set out to change all of that with “Kenguru” a car designed specifically for those in wheelchairs.
Unlike regular-sized cars that have been modified to be wheelchair-friendly, Kenguru is a smaller electric vehicle that comes with a large rear-door and a ramp that slides out for easy access. While the prototypes can only reach up to 25 mph and run 45-60 miles on a battery charge, Zoern sees it as a step in the right direction. “The Kenguru gives people independence, which is something that people who aren’t disabled take for granted. That independence is absolutely necessary for the quality of life,” says Zoern.
Because of a congenital neuromuscular disease that she was born with, Zoern herself is in a wheelchair and picked up the idea from Istvan Kissaroslaki who was working on the first model in 2006, but was forced to abandon the project in 2008 because of the economic crisis. To make Kenguru a reality, Zoern had to make some serious life changes. The young lawyer left her job and dedicated herself full-time to helping the Kenguru team move over the the United States from Hungary and raise funds to complete the project.
With help from government programs, Zoern and the team were able to introduce ten vehicles to Europe and hope to launch a mass production of the vehicle in the United Sates later this year with a price tag of $25,000.