We were watching a DVD of the old TV series Connections the other night. Connections was a documentary series in which James Burke made connections from an early discovery through civilizations and time until it shows up as a magnificent part of modern civilization. It is almost a version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." As I was watching, I wondered when and where did the wheelchair begin?
I knew a little, but I also knew there had to be more. The earliest reference I found was a wheeled bed in Greece in 530 B.C. I cannot imagine that was very mobile or convenient, especially for visiting friends or shopping. Just five years later, the Chinese put wheels on chairs. The Chinese honor their elders and they appear to honor disability as well, because by the third century they had a "rolling apparatus for the infirmed."* The earliest image of a wheelchair was found incised in stone on a Chinese sarcophagus, but the histories that I found did not credit the Chinese with inventing the wheelchair.