French para-badminton champion David Toupé’s dreams may soon come true. Following two years of collaboration between the Airbus Disability & Inclusion Mission and the Airbus Humanity Lab volunteer network, David is now ready to head to the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo with a new partner: a wheelchair made by Airbus.
David Toupé’s journey to becoming a para-badminton champion began in 2003. After a ski accident deprived him of the use of his legs, David was faced with a choice: to allow the life-changing moment to dash his dreams or to turn the page and move forward.
“I didn't think I would ever play badminton again,” he explains. “Then, I met other paraplegic badminton players at my local rehabilitation centre. Their competitive spirit and passion for the sport convinced me to continue pursuing badminton at competition level.”
David worked to overcome his self-doubt. After building up his confidence, he set his sights on pursuing a career as a high-performance athlete in adaptive sports, or competitive sports for people with disabilities.
“David is shaking up unconscious biases about disabilities being incompatible with high-level performance,” says Patricia Ortiz Cantarero, Airbus Inclusion & Diversity Specialist. “His background as a high-performance athlete, in addition to his energy, immediately appealed to us. It’s people like David who can help transform society’s perceptions on disability. He also embodies all of the values we hold dear at Airbus: respect, teamwork, creativity and high performance.”
A partnership built on solidarity
In 2019, David met with volunteers from the Airbus Humanity Lab to discuss a potential partnership. The Humanity Lab's vocation is to leverage aeronautic technologies in support of solidarity projects. Airbus Humanity Lab Founder and Toulouse ProtoSpace Manager Christophe Debard clearly remembers his first encounter with David: “When we met David, something just clicked between us. It became obvious very quickly that he needed a high-performance wheelchair adapted to his needs. Our employees' expertise, coupled with ProtoSpace’s resources, made it possible for us to meet this challenge.”
A multi-site, multi-divisional team located in Toulouse, Nantes, Marignane and Getafe began working on both creating a new wheelchair and making major transformations to David’s existing wheelchair. The focus was to improve high performance by concentrating on the wheelchair construction, including the angle of the wheels, as well as the materials used.
I can’t wait to play at competition level with my new wheelchair. My greatest desire is to bring back a medal from the Tokyo Paralympic Games this summer and also from the Paris Paralympic Games in 2024.
David Toupé, Para-badminton champion
Improved stability for greater performance
Today, David’s new wheelchair is now ready to go. It is an adjustable aluminum wheelchair. This versatile material enabled the Humanity Lab team to save on weight, thereby producing a lightweight wheelchair. Specially designed levers enable David to adjust for extra speed and performance in his movements.
“The wheel angle and diameter, as well as the position of the backrest, are essential factors to help improve stability,” says Philippe Abbink, Airbus Helicopters ergonomist. “When correctly adjusted, the wheelchair can really boost David’s performance.”
Today, David is testing the new wheelchair at training sessions with his French para-badminton team. His aim is to familiarise himself with the wheelchair’s every detail.
"I can’t wait to play at competition level with my new wheelchair,” he says. “My greatest desire is to bring back a medal from the Tokyo Paralympic Games this summer and also from the Paris Paralympic Games in 2024.”