EC.721 | Spring 2009 | Undergraduate
Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries

Project Proposals

1. World-wide wheelchair donation network

The majority of wheelchairs used in developing countries are given away for free and break down quickly on rough terrain. Because users depend on handouts, they cannot assert economic pressure to improve imported products to suit their lifestyle. To address this problem the project team will create a Web-based network to connect donors from developed nations directly to workshops providing appropriate technology that meets user needs and suits the local environment. Through this system, workshops will advertise their clients, donors will select recipients, and workshops will provide confirmation of wheelchair delivery. A ll inputs and outputs will be controlled by workshops and donors, minimizing the need for an a separate institution to oversee this process and maximizing revenue flow to the manufacturers.

An additional component to the network will be a “Friendster” type peer-to-peer community where wheelchair manufacturers from around the world can share designs and ideas with each other.

2. Low-cost tricycle attachment for wheelchairs

In most developing countries, people with disabilities are not afforded the luxury of smooth roads, ramps, or handicapped accessible transportation. As a result, wheelchair users often rely solely on their own power for both long and short distance travel. Mobility aids currently used do not fully suit user needs; wheelchairs are exhausting to push on rough ground, while hand-powered tricycles, which are more efficient to propel, are too large to use in the house.

In this project students will continue development of a tricycle attachment that was developed in last year’s class. The attachment uses a vice grip to quicly attach to a wheelchair. The whole device costs approx. $50 U.S. The new design needs to be stowable somewhere on the chair. Additionally, a multi-speed drivetrain should be included on the device if possible.

3. Small business opportunities funded by micro loans Two of the major problems that affect third-world people with disabilities are the inability to afford a mobility aid and the lack of available jobs. This project will address both issues by identifying small business opportunities that can be run from the back of a wheelchair and/or tricycle and initiated via a micro loan. With this plan, disabled people will be able to buy a mobility aid and earn an income.
4. Power-assisted tricycle There are some tricycle users who wish to travel farther and faster than they could under their own power. The aim of this project will be to produce a powered tricycle that can be operated in a manual, power-assisted, or combination state (similar to a moped). The product will need to use locally-available components, be low-cost (~$300-$500US) and manufacturable at APDK in Kenya. One of the significant challenges of this project will be to devise a control system that allows the user to pedal, steel, and operate the engine.
5. Adjustable gear ratio for Kien Tuong tricycles The Kien Tuong workshop makes one of the coolest trikes in the world. By placing a steering wheel on top of the propulsion lever, a user can both power himself and steer at the same time. Kien Tuong wants to improve on this design by offering a tricycle with a variable gear ratio to accommodate different terrains. A simple way to do this is by changing one of the pivot points in the lever linkage. Whatever design that is developed should be simple, robust, and able to shift on the fly.
6. Flat-pack tricycle frame Many of our partner workshops would like to export their products to other countries. To do this efficiently, the tricycle frames should flatten so many can fit within a shipping container. Additionally, a collapsing frame would make transport on busses easier. The team that develops this project will produce a frame that folds flat (or can easily stack) and that can be modified for use in the varying tricycle designs produced by our partner workshops.
7. Marketing plan and grant writing guide Advertising of appropriate technology in developing countries can greatly increase product usage; for example, the revenues generated from the “Super Money Maker,” which is made by KickStart and advertised all around Sub-Saharan Africa, accounts for 0.6% of Kenya’s GDP. This project will include devising advertising material and strategies for selling wheelchairs and tricycles. Advertising materials may include brochures, websites, posters, and TV and radio advertisements. Additionally, this project will require the development of a grant writing guide to help wheelchair workshops identify and secure alternative means of funding.
8. Electrically-powered wheelchair/scooter A number of our partners have expressed a desire to carry powered mobility aids in their product line. The team that works on this project can choose to either create an electric wheelchair or an electric scooter similar to ones produced by “Clark.” The device that is developed will have to utilize batteries and motors that are cheap and available in the partners’ countries. This will require some creativity, as motors used in other applications (such as automotive, home appliance, etc) may work well for a wheelchair. The device will have to operate indoors, fit through doorways, and include a control system that is operated by the upper body.
9. Sports wheelchairs and tricycles Many workshops are reporting that their clients desire purely recreational devices. The team developing this project will have the choice of creating a new tricycle or wheelchair design. The tricycle should be a sport-commuter that is fun to ride. The wheelchair should be for basketball and/or tennis and conform to international competition standards.
Course Info
As Taught In
Spring 2009
Learning Resource Types
theaters Demonstration Videos
collections Image Gallery
notes Lecture Notes
group_work Projects with Examples