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Wheelchair Build Project Post 2 – Inspiration and Research

September 27, 2017

So, I’ve decided I want to build my own custom wheelchair. There are advantages to starting from scratch, but the path I’m choosing is to take advantage of the engineering work of others, and to use as many off-the-shelf parts as possible. Hopefully this will mean that the overall cost is lower, and also hopefully the project will be quicker

A friend recommended that I contact Get Cycling in York, as they are committed to helping disabled people get mobile, they use a lot of bicycle parts, and they can make custom frames

In my last post, I talked about how the inspiration for this project came partly from the superb Leveraged Freedom Chair, which was designed by engineers from MIT to meet specific needs in the developing world. Obviously my setting and needs are different. Most notably, I need my mobility device to be able to operate using a motor, as my primary diagnosis is Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID), otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. I have this many-named but ill-understood condition badly enough that walking to the loo can sometimes require a 5 minute wait before I’m ready to walk less than 10 metres back to bed. So, while being able to operate a wheelchair manually in close quarters and when doing fine positioning will undoubtedly be invaluable, for most of the time, I need to rely on a motor to get around

Sitting in our garage, sadly neglected and never used to her full potential, is an electric bike I bought 5 years ago. At that point I was starting to find longer distances difficult, but was still resisting getting myself a walking stick. The electric bike, for the period before I got too ill for it, was a lifeline. I could ride into town or out to the peaks, and use the motor to go far further than I would have been able to ride or walk without it. I know that in the grand scheme of things, I never cycled very long distances. As someone whose world had been steadily shrinking for years, and who was starting to have to use a walking stick however, it was indescribable. I’m sure that having the bike, and using it for the time that I could, greatly eased the emotional trauma of being a former outdoor sports enthusiast now reliant on mobility aids

Being as I am, a bit of a social media addict, I have Pinterest. And being a user of Pinterest, when I find something I like, I tend to Pin it, and then find other stuff that broadly relates to it. And with my electric bike having made such a difference to my life, I have a lot of Pins related to bikes

One of the things I’ve found in my Pinterest wanderings is that there are off-the-shelf kits to convert standard bicycles to tricycles. Looking at these kits. And the structure of the Leveraged Freedom Chair. And the electric motor from the bike I can no longer ride. There simply must be a way to put things together that meets all the items on my brief

I’ve had a lot of ideas about how to do the details of things, but I’m trying to just make note of them for the time being. To not become invested in any particular solution, because you never know until you actually try things which ideas are going to work

My next step is going to be to make some calls. And Get Cycling are at the top of my list! I’ll let you know how I get on

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