The lat­est wheel­chair de­signs de­liver the world’s fastest and cheap­est chairs.

Low-cost wheel­chair made rugged to last in east Africa

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - PHOTO: SAFARISEAT

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.

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