The latest wheelchair designs deliver the world’s fastest and cheapest chairs.
Low-cost wheelchair made rugged to last in east Africa
A NEW wheelchair has been designed to make life easier for individuals living with disabilities in developing regions. The SafariSeat, from London-based Uji, is aimed at being affordable, easy to repair with inexpensive parts, and able to be manufactured and repaired locally.
Like the Freedom Chair and Mountain Trike, the SafariSeat was conceived for use on rough terrain. Where it differs from those examples, though, is in having four wheels instead of three and a focus on affordability.
The project came about in 2014 after an accident left Uji founder Janna Deeble in a wheelchair temporarily.
Deeble, who grew up in Kenya, felt the experience helped him to understand better the difficulties that are faced by wheelchair-using people in developing countries, who may have to deal with rough terrain without adequate equipment.
“SafariSeat is designed so that it can be made in basic workshops, using bicycle components. We did this to enable easy and affordable repair.
“Charity donations of unsuitable wheelchairs are well-intentioned, but often their repair requires specialist techniques and imported parts, so they quickly become redundant. Local manufacture keeps all costs low, and means the user can communicate directly with the manufacturer, enabling custom modifications where needed,” Deeble states on Kickstarter.
The chair is designed in such a way that it can be assembled without the need for tools. Levers on each side are pumped with the arms to propel the chair via a leveraged mechanism. Gripping the levers at the bottom gives the sense of a high gear for use at speed over flat ground, while gripping them at the top provides more leverage for increased torque over rough ground.
A suspension system allows the chair to keep all four wheels in contact with the ground for stability while moving over rough terrain. The seat, meanwhile, adjusts its shape as the chair moves, helping to reduce the potential for pressure sores and stimulating blood flow. Uji plans to make the blueprints for the SafariSeat freely available, meaning that anyone will be able to build one.
It also plans to include workarounds so that the chair can still be constructed even if not all of the required components are available.
Uji is working with APDK Bombolulu who have contributed a wealth of expertise in local manufacturing techniques and provide a distribution network that will be used to deliver the SafariSeats.
A Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for the SafariSeat is under way. Pledges from £200 (about R3 420) will see a SafariSeat gifted to an individual whom it could benefit.
Letu, a Kenyan disabled by polio, helped to design the low-cost SafariSeat wheelchair using bicycle parts to give freedom of movement to the one in 200 disabled people who need a wheelchair in eastern Africa.