How can we optimise wheelchair use for people living in rural off-road communities in East Africa?
The World Health Organisation states that over 75 million people are in need of an appropriate wheelchair, 85‑95% of whom do not have access to one. This is largely due to the majority of the individuals in need of wheelchairs living in low-resource settings without access to appropriate and affordable mobility interventions. Without the independence of mobility, people in low resource settings can find themselves marginalised and susceptible to falling into a disability-poverty cycle which can lead to them being unable to financially or physically support themselves or their family. The SafariSeat project aimed to identify and develop a solution to optimise wheelchair use for people living in rural off-road communities in East Africa.
Three key design principles were distilled from research and applied throughout the design process to guide and justify design decisions. The identified design principles included:
1 – Localised Design (Work with local materials, tools, communities and networks wherever possible).
2 – Prioritise Usability (Optimise reliability, durability, ease of manufacture and maintenance).
3 – Ruthless Affordability (Minimise costs and production time without compromising safety).
SafariSeat is an off-road wheelchair with a small footprint which allows it to be used indoors as well as over the roughest rocky terrain. It is low-cost and manufactured locally in Kenya with basic tools and it is easy to repair locally using bicycle parts. The suspension system is a simple, durable mechanism which avoids the use of springs, allowing each wheel to lift independently to prevent tipping. SafariSeat uses puncture-proof tyres for durability over rough terrain. The hand pedals are geared for weaker users to move over rough ground with minimum effort; they allow constant transmission of power compared to levers or push rims, which also helps going uphill. SafariSeat also has tie-down racks on either side for transporting baggage or water containers.
For further information about this project, please contact Cara Shaw