A new prototype wheelchair is likely to replace the timeworn design, making it more user-friendly.
This is nearly a life's work for a husband and wife engineering duo at Massey University. It’s been a job done for sheer happiness rather than in expectation of a reward.
Dr. Claire Flemmer and her husband were inspired when they saw a woman struggling to get up a wheelchair ramp. The scene hit them like a ton of bricks and they decided to come up with a better design.
Surprisingly, there hasn't been any sort of major improvement in wheelchair design over this century, Dr. Rory Flemmer pointed out.
The couple works as a team on all their research projects regardless of whatever area it is. But he praises his wife and deems her as the driving force behind the project.
Dr. Claire Flemmer constantly kept her husband motivated to work on the project by asking him if he loved her, and if he did, he will not stop working. After 30 years of hard work, they finally managed to come up with a solution.
Cunning engineering's Ezywheels chair make things easier for people with disabilities. Here's how it works:
As the user turns the push rim, the tires move forward and back in the normal mode. There's a special mode called the Run mode, which allows the user to drive the wheels forward using just the forward and backward hand motion, thus putting less pressure on the arms of the wheelchair user.
As opposed to using a standard wheelchair where only about 20 percent of the user's actual arm motion is used to move the chair forward, Ezywheels chair uses 100 percent of user's arm motion to set the chair going. It features a three-gear system. The gearing system is similar to a bicycle. On an easy path such as smooth surface and flat or downward sloping, high gear is employed. However, on harder paths such as up a ramp or tarred path, low gear is used.
Run mode restricts reverse movement, protecting the user from accidentally rolling backward a slope.
Claire points out that a regular wheelchair is highly unstable when using it on even a slight upward slope and when you add physical ability and age to this already challenging situation, things can get tougher.
About one in 200 New Zealanders rely completely on their wheelchairs for mobility.
Wheelchair user Juliana Carvalho says this puts an enormous amount of pressure on her elbows and wrists. Her movability is quite limited outdoors, especially with the standard wheelchair. Moreover, moving around on rough pathways, on grass or on the beach is nothing short of laborious.
Juliana is delighted at the prospect of a radically overhauled technology. She believes it will give several wheelchair users the much-needed freedom to move around effortlessly.
This lack of accessibility stops wheelchair users from enjoying life to the fullest, but with the advent of a wheelchair that can take care of these barriers, things are likely to get better in near future.
The wheels are ideal for indoor as well as outdoor use and snap fits even on to custom-built frames. A few adjustments are still likely, but it should be up for grabs sometime next year. (Image: lena1790 / Pixabay)