Wheelchairs are a daily necessity for many people around the world. Still, specialized parts can make maintaining one difficult in some countries. Others can’t even afford the wheelchair at all. A new wheelchair design aims to address this issue by using traditional bike parts.
The SafariSeat is a new, off-road, hand-powered redesign of the wheelchair that was created with these developing countries in mind. What makes it so unique is that its parts are made from local materials and bike parts. This ensures that nearly anyone will have the parts to fix it. A mechanism mimicking a car’s suspension keeps each wheel on the ground. This improves stability and makes the new wheelchair much better off-road.
The inspiration for the project came from industrial designer Janna Deeble after she suffered a short-term injury. Now living in the U.K., Deeble grew up in Kenya, where one in 200 disabled people lack any access to mobility. As a child, he knew a Samburu tribesman named Letu who had been disabled by Polio.
“Even in a city designed for wheelchair use with curb cutouts and ramps and lifts, it was infuriating.” Deeble said to GMA News. “I got stuck the whole time, and my wheelchair was just useless, and this led me to think, well, if I’m experiencing these problems here, how bad must it be for Letu?”
According to Deeble, the patent-pending design of the SafariSeat improves the biomechanical efficiency of wheelchairs. Instead of standard human power, two levers provide more power and speed.
The plan is to make everything open source. Anyone will be able to use the designs to build or improve a SafariSeat for their community.
“Open Source means that the designs will be totally free, and we’re doing this because we want SafariSeat to help as many people as possible.” said Deeble. “Our aim is that anyone in the world will be able to take the plans and build SafariSeats for people in their community, both helping people with disabilities and creating jobs for local people.”
To date, the SafariSeat’s Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $115,000, which is triple the original target of just $38,000. All this extra money allows the team to hold more workshops in Kenya. They will also be able to expand into Uganda, Tanzania, and eventually the rest of the world.