Students design low cost wheelchair for developing countries

Interesting read and thought to share: Two UPC students design and build a low-cost wheelchair for use in developing countries. The wheelchair can be put together or taken apart in 15 minutes, costs €70 to make and is built out of two bicycle wheels, two supermarket trolley wheels and a PVC pipe to help address some of these unmet needs and make life easier for the people with motor disabilities who are most in need of assistance.

The design of the DIY wheelchair includes two sizes, Standard and Kids, and the weight of the assembled chair ranges from 15 to 20 kg. The useful life of either model is from three to five years under normal conditions of use.  Once put together, it performs like any conventional wheelchair and offers the same level of comfort. It has a seat cushion, footrest, push handle, backrest and wheels with handrims so the user can propel the chair and be more independent.

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Watch the video

Intriguing story - is it realistic?

Thanks for sharing @Maria, This is not meant to be a negative or pedantic comment because I appreciate the good work.

Byt, I feel that we have an ethical obligation to have a critical look at things. We must avoid encouaging engagement in risky business. Too often we create false hopes for those already challenged. I fear that we often superficially oversimplifying things to promote ourselves without realizing/measuring/acknowledge the possible positive or negative impact it may have.

I’ve never been to Senegal so I have to use imagination to analyze the story. I put myself in the situation of a Senegalese who read the story and try to copy the concept, watching the video made by some ‘rich’ guys saying this cost only €70.

I need a workshop: power Drill, bits, saw… Ok it’s initial investment may be covered if I intend producing lots as a business. I need to buy the materials: Pipe, glue etc. (Are hardware stores plenty and well stocked  in the target country? what prices do they practice?).

However, I’m sitting comfortably in europe. Have several hardware nearby. There you spend a lot for small quantities. Just to get an estimate I used RS online to get an idea. Pipes:40€, 10 Elbows, etc, a whopping 7€ each, locktite glue 25 €… Bicycle wheels??? Shopping cart wheels??? (we are not stealing are we?)

Your shopping cart will cost me more than 200€.  (See note)

Where do I want to go? I would like to see the description of the actual prototype session where someone in Senegal, actually goes through this maker process and constructs a solid wheelchair for another person, listing difficulties, actual costs (tools,time and transport included) Why? Because we have an ethical obligation not to lead people into false beliefs. Not to encourage them into a project that may cost them much more money and resources than they think. Not to encourage taking uncalculated risks and facing a (maybe fatal?) failure.

Note I don’t know if I looked up the right things, but if they arent I would have wasted further money and failed building the weelchair

It’s a start…

@Rune sorry for the delay in responding. Not taken negatively at all. It would be natural to analyse the risk factors involved.

From what I read it cost the students €70 to build from “their” resources. The students developed the wheelchair design for users in developing countries using whatever materials are most readily available in each region.  The idea is that people close to the end user should be able to build, assemble and disassemble it themselves. DIY Wheelchair can be built with the most affordable materials in each country: PVC pipes, bamboo etc.

This is a solution that is always be tried and tested, back in 1993 and many others. They’re aim was to develop an affordable solution to improve the lives of people. aims to promote inclusion and improve the mobility of disabled people with limited resources from developing countries, where only a minority of those in need of wheelchairs has access to them.

The DIY Wheelchair isn’t a product, but a toolkit with assembly instructions that can be downloaded and a video demonstration which lends the user to use their own resources in the region to  assemble the chair. It’s a start.

However, there are challenges of an affordable design. This type of open design has some drawbacks, since it lets users alone. Without a support network including designers, for the ergonomics to be satisfied and, users could use badly the instructions or not use them at all. More work to done in this respect.