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Barbara Alink – Innovation for Inclusion

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The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship recently hosted Dutch inventor and social entrepreneur Barbara Alink for a public lecture Innovation for Inclusion, delivered at the University of Auckland’s Business School. Barbara shared her inspirational story of an adventurous career spent helping improve the lives of others, and gave insight into her latest venture – the Alinker.

Barbara’s mother saw a traditional walker mobility aid and commented “over my dead body will I ever use one of them”. Around half of those who could gain benefit from using mobility aids are not using them because the stigma associated with their use is discouraging. These people are at risk of a fall or losing all their mobility.

Barbara was driven to create a better option not only for her mother but that would help overcome the stigma for all who could benefit from a mobility aid. People had told her that having a wheelchair and not being seen at eye-level often results in being treated as though they had a mental disability as well as a physical disability. She wanted to create a solution that was cool and could bring both mobility and dignity to those who used it. “Disability does not determine who we are” says Barbara. And so the process began to create the Alinker.

When you spend time with Barbara you can feel her passion for building a more inclusive global community. She is originally from the Netherlands, a country with bicycles in its genes. She worked in the field of restoration architecture. However despite a lot of time and money being poured into repurposing buildings she did not see the hard work bringing joy to the community.

Feeing confined by the constraints of Western society, Barbara took her skills on a journey to find meaningful community. Her journey took her to Kenya, Kosovo, Ethiopia, The Sudan, Indonesia and finally Afghanistan. She lived among the local people and worked with them empowering them with the skills to build and strengthen their communities.

After three years in Afghanistan and disillusioned by the politics of international aid organisations Barbara moved to Canada. Driven by her mother’s comment about mobility aids she began the process to create something better.

Early in the design process Barbara realised that what she needed to create was a device which challenged society’s assumptions about those who live with mobility challenges. She wanted to create a device which brought joy to those who used it and so through a user centred design process the Alinker walking bike was created.

The Alinker R-volution walking bike allows those who are mobility challenged to live an active life and remain socially connected and emotionally engaged in their communities. It enables those who use it to be seen not as their disability but as the person they are.

The stories of freedom and independence from those using the Alinker are heart-warming and inspiring. Freed from the worry about falling and being at eye level means that people using the Alinker can be socially connected to those around them. A new partnership with Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, will enable a collaboration to continue the innovation and development of the Alinker improving the usability of the saddle and the walking bike’s mobility on slopes.

The Alinker also caught the attention of Li Ka Shing who donated $1m to Alinker to help distribute the Alinker through building awareness and developing community partnerships. As a result of this 40 Alinker R-volution bikes will be donated in New Zealand through local organisation the Life Unlimited Charitable Trust. Life Unlimited are the New Zealand distributor of the Alinker R-volution.

Barbara says that our communities will be richer when we focus not on ourselves as individuals but as a collective. Communities are where we as humans find our true selves and can grow through looking at what we can build together.

“When I can inspire others to understand that my happiness is defined by the kind of member I am of our larger community, my happiness is defined by who I am, not by what I have. I do because I can.”

Barbara Alink was brought to New Zealand by the generosity of Li Ka Shing Foundation

 

 

Dutch inventor and social entrepreneur Barbara Alink

Dutch inventor and social entrepreneur Barbara Alink.

Dutch inventor and social entrepreneur Barbara Alink

Dutch inventor and social entrepreneur Barbara Alink.

social media

The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship recently hosted Dutch inventor and social entrepreneur Barbara Alink for a public lecture Innovation for Inclusion, delivered at the University of Auckland’s Business School. Barbara shared her inspirational story of an adventurous career spent helping improve the lives of others, and gave insight into her latest venture – the Alinker.

Barbara’s mother saw a traditional walker mobility aid and commented “over my dead body will I ever use one of them”. Around half of those who could gain benefit from using mobility aids are not using them because the stigma associated with their use is discouraging. These people are at risk of a fall or losing all their mobility.

Barbara was driven to create a better option not only for her mother but that would help overcome the stigma for all who could benefit from a mobility aid. People had told her that having a wheelchair and not being seen at eye-level often results in being treated as though they had a mental disability as well as a physical disability. She wanted to create a solution that was cool and could bring both mobility and dignity to those who used it. “Disability does not determine who we are” says Barbara. And so the process began to create the Alinker.

When you spend time with Barbara you can feel her passion for building a more inclusive global community. She is originally from the Netherlands, a country with bicycles in its genes. She worked in the field of restoration architecture. However despite a lot of time and money being poured into repurposing buildings she did not see the hard work bringing joy to the community.

Feeing confined by the constraints of Western society, Barbara took her skills on a journey to find meaningful community. Her journey took her to Kenya, Kosovo, Ethiopia, The Sudan, Indonesia and finally Afghanistan. She lived among the local people and worked with them empowering them with the skills to build and strengthen their communities.

After three years in Afghanistan and disillusioned by the politics of international aid organisations Barbara moved to Canada. Driven by her mother’s comment about mobility aids she began the process to create something better.

Early in the design process Barbara realised that what she needed to create was a device which challenged society’s assumptions about those who live with mobility challenges. She wanted to create a device which brought joy to those who used it and so through a user centred design process the Alinker walking bike was created.

The Alinker R-volution walking bike allows those who are mobility challenged to live an active life and remain socially connected and emotionally engaged in their communities. It enables those who use it to be seen not as their disability but as the person they are.

The stories of freedom and independence from those using the Alinker are heart-warming and inspiring. Freed from the worry about falling and being at eye level means that people using the Alinker can be socially connected to those around them. A new partnership with Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, will enable a collaboration to continue the innovation and development of the Alinker improving the usability of the saddle and the walking bike’s mobility on slopes.

The Alinker also caught the attention of Li Ka Shing who donated $1m to Alinker to help distribute the Alinker through building awareness and developing community partnerships. As a result of this 40 Alinker R-volution bikes will be donated in New Zealand through local organisation the Life Unlimited Charitable Trust. Life Unlimited are the New Zealand distributor of the Alinker R-volution.

Barbara says that our communities will be richer when we focus not on ourselves as individuals but as a collective. Communities are where we as humans find our true selves and can grow through looking at what we can build together.

“When I can inspire others to understand that my happiness is defined by the kind of member I am of our larger community, my happiness is defined by who I am, not by what I have. I do because I can.”

Barbara Alink was brought to New Zealand by the generosity of Li Ka Shing Foundation

 

 


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