‘It changed my life’: a front-load­ing car for dis­abled driv­ers

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - IMPACTJOURNALISM DAY -

The El­bee is a weird ve­hi­cle. It opens from the front, and you don’t climb in, but ride straight into it with a wheel­chair. The small car is one of the first ve­hi­cles made solely for dis­abled driv­ers. The car is the brain­child of Czech busi­ness­man Ladislav Brázdil. When he be­gan his man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany, Brázdil de­cided to fol­low his dream of cre­at­ing his own prod­uct: an ur­ban mi­cro-car de­signed specif­i­cally for driv­ers in a wheel­chair. “This was it,” says Brázdil. “It was some­thing unique that we as an engi­neer­ing busi­ness could pro­duce.”

The first model went to mar­ket at the end of 2014 and the his­toric first cus­tomer was Fran­tišek Trunda, who had lost both legs be­low the hips. For him the car has pro­vided a re­newed sense of free­dom. “It has changed my life,” he says. “I can now go for a drive out of town or go to see my brother. I don’t have to wait un­til some­one has time to go with me.”

This di­rect driver ac­cess to the ve­hi­cle was a fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple of the whole project. Or­di­nary ve­hi­cles that are adapted do not re­solve the prob­lem of what to do with the wheel­chair, if there is no­body there to help the dis­abled driver stow it away.

A ma­jor ad­van­tage of front-end open­ing is that wheel­chair users can park the car fac­ing the foot­path – the driver can see where to re­lease the wheel­chair ramp so as to ride out of the car safely, among pedes­tri­ans on the foot­path, and not on to the road.

One lim­it­ing fac­tor and a risk for the project, specif­i­cally in the Czech mar­ket, is the price of the car. The cur­rent price is 600,000 CZK (nearly ¤23,000), and al­though the price can be cut thanks to var­i­ous sub­si­dies and re­liefs, it is of­ten still cheaper for wheel­chair users to mod­ify a nor­mal car.

How­ever, Brázdil’s son ex­plains that the fam­ily are in­spired by more than money. “We’re mak­ing some­thing that’s re­ally emo­tive,” says Ladislav Brázdil jnr, “and this in­spires us to con­tinue the project. We’ve had re­ac­tions from peo­ple say­ing that thanks to the El­bee they’re now learn­ing to drive and they are re­gain­ing strength and abil­ity. In our small way we’re restor­ing their lives.”

The El­bee: a front-load­ing car de­signed for dis­abled peo­ple

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.