New ‘lever chair’ changing lives

Levers. This new ‘lever’ propelling feature for wheelchairs isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We saw it first in the Wijit, and now it’s becoming a godsend to people in wheelchairs all around the globe.

The Leveraged Freedom Chair, a brand new inexpensively-designed wheelchair made for developing countries, is opening up the world to people with disabilities, enabling them to move independently in their communities and towns (in many cases) for the very first time.

The Leveraged Freedom Chair was designed by Amos Winter, assistant professor in the department of mechanical engineering at MIT. While he himself isn’t a wheelchair-user, he became inspired after doing master’s work in Tanzania (and working with the Whirlwind Wheelchair International organization, which designs all-terrain wheelchairs for developing countries too).

But he saw that people still had a hard time pushing themselves, and who can blame them, uneven roads, crazy hills and God knows what else.

So he decided to create an all-wheelchair that would fix all that, and he looked to lever technology. While previously made all-terrain wheelchairs for developing countries are good, many didn’t take ease of independent-use into consideration. You can bet the Leverage Freedom Chair will change lives. Only 100 have been dispersed so far, but the results so far have been huge.

This wheelchair is helping people leave their homes and get where they’re going without anyone needing to help them anymore. This is a huge thing. In a study they did on the chair, passing put a few to test subjects in India, nearly all switched over. It was the first time in many of their lives that they were able to leave their homes independently. And once they got the chair, most averaged traveling in it about 2.7 kilometers a day. Even four of the test subjects got a job as a result.

They also found that the Leveraged chair is 80% faster than a regular wheelchair on tarmac and also gives the user 50% more torque from the levers (this is really important on rough terrain). To use the levers, the user grabs high on the levers to put it into “low gear” and then puts their hands low on the levers for “high gear.” Also, the levers can be removed and stored on the chair, so the chair can be used “normally” indoors (glad they added this feature).

The Leveraged Freedom Chair still has a long ways to go when it comes to persuading people that it really is better (and just getting the word out on it in general), but it’s slowly happening. Their goal is to offer this chair for about $200 and to make them repairable by any bike shop.

And you can look for a developed-country version of this chair soon. A high-end model is currently in the works.

Would you use a chair with levers? Have you tried one? Is it really that much easier?

- Visit their official site: Leveraged Freedom Chair

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