In Africa, 20 to 40 percent of wheelchair users request a hand-powered wheelchair attachment because it helps them move faster over long distances and can carry more cargo than a regular wheelchair. These attachments are also popular in many other locations around the world.
In the past, LDS Charities worked with outside manufacturers and suppliers to purchase hand-powered wheelchair attachments. These were only 1-speed attachments and weren’t compatible with other new wheelchair designs from LDS Charities.
LDS Charities put six engineering students from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, to the task of developing a new hand-powered wheelchair attachment. The attachment will connect to the new wheelchair models from LDS Charities.
In September 2017 the students began searching for solutions to improve the hand pedal and to allow more speeds on the chair. They worked closely with LDS Charities wheelchair manager Eric Wunderlich to design an attachment that could work with existing wheelchairs. They also conducted user trials to further enhance the design.
In March 2018 the engineering students presented a working design to Wunderlich. When finalized, the design will be taken to a manufacturer for further refinement and to be put into mass production. The new attachment makes use of gears and a front chain drive, like a bicycle, to help users move up steep terrain more easily and to move faster across smooth terrain. The design uses common bicycle parts and can easily be attached to a wide variety of wheelchairs. Users can disconnect the attachment and use their wheelchairs indoors and around the home.
As LDS Charities continues to refine the design of this attachment, we plan on conducting in-country trials. These tests will determine the usability and durability of the attachment.
Click here to learn more about LDS Charities’ wheelchair initiative.