WATCH | Social entrepreneur gives wheelchair users independence with her new innovation

  • In 2011, Portia Mavhungu's pelvis was broken in an accident and she is unable to use the bathroom on her own.
  • The life-changing incident inspired her to develop Para Tube, a retrofitted seat that turns into a built-in toilet seat and fits into any standard wheelchair.
  • After she spent six years working on the device, she managed to raise thousands of rand in funding and hopes to launch the product this year.

Portia Mavhungu has a fighting spirit. 

In 2011, she fell from a three-storey building and injured her pelvis extensively.

She was bedridden for seven weeks and wheelchair bound for almost a year. 

"I went into a deep depression because now I needed my mother and granny to lift me off the wheelchair and to put me onto the toilet pot. I felt like I lost all of my independence," Mavhungu told News24. 

During this time, she started thinking of ways to change her circumstances.

"I thought to myself: 'I am going to be in this situation for a short time. What about those who will be in this situation for the rest of their lives?'"

A new idea

And that's when Para Tube was invented.

Para Tube is a specialised seat that fits onto any wheelchair and gives people the ability to relieve themselves without leaving their wheelchairs or requiring third-party assistance.

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The centre of the seat can be pulled forward through the use of a handle, and it has the ability to flip up into the shape of a toilet seat.

The user can then defecate or urinate into a biodegradable bag in the opening, which they can dispose of later.

"I have this tendency not to give up," she said. She spent more than six years working on the prototype and her hard work is paying off. 

Finding funding

In 2015, she received R1 million in funding from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). Two years later, she was a finalist in the medical category of the Gauteng Accelerator Programme Innovation Competition Awards.

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As a finalist, Mavhungu won R200 000 in seed funding and was paired up with a mentor. 

In 2019, she received more funding from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which brought her closer to her goal of launching the product this year. 

"We are busy with testing so we can launch before June. Due to Covid-19 regulations last year, manufacturing was halted. Our manufacturing is outsourced. But now we have received our seats from the manufacturers," the 32-year-old said. 

Mavhungu plans to launch the seats at old age homes and at large pharmaceutical retailers at a cost of R2 800 per seat.

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