25 October 2007

open source wheelchair design

Posted in social justice at 11:28 pm by Tricia

I regularly listen to the “Geo Quiz” podcast from PRI’s The World radio show. A recent episode focused on wheelchairs in the third world. I learned there is a designer based in Nicaragua who won a MacArthur “genius grant” for his innovative work, designing wheelchairs that can easily maneuver the poor road conditions found in many developing nations. Apparently the designs are much more innovative than in the US, and much more affordable. One key feature is that they use common bicycle parts, so that anyone who can repair a bike (many such people in developing nations!) can repair the wheelchair. They release their wheelchair designs to the public domain rather than protect them by patent – how cool is that?

For more info, listen to the geo quiz and visit the web site for the organization (Whirlwind Wheelchair International). And watch this video to get a really good sense of how much better they are under tricky conditions.

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