It’s not every day you see a wheelchair that can climb stairs. And it’s certainly not every day you see a wheelchair that doesn’t have wheels. But inventor Alan Lee has created just that with the B-Free Chair.
The B-Free uses “pedrails” which are essentially tiny tank tracks instead of traditional wheels. Each side of the wheelchair has front, rear, and middle pedrails that can move up and down to help the user get across various rough surfaces, such as stairs. The user faces backward when going upstairs and forward when going down them. An added bonus of the B-Free, is that its pedrails can raise or lower the user to different vantage points.
However, one of the drawbacks of the chair is that it's a fairly slow process to go up or down stairs. And the B-Free can’t traverse all staircases. Staircases that are too steep, too narrow, rise too much between steps, or spiral too sharply are still off limits. But the B-Free Chair can cover a lot of staircases, and is certainly an improvement over chairs that can’t traverse stairs at all.
Lee was inspired by the tragic story of a paraplegic who became a prisoner in his own home for eight years due to five steps in the lobby of his apartment.
Now that the chair has been thoroughly tested, Lee’s current goal is to get it on the market. He plans to target Hong Kong and Macau first, then launch the wheelchair in Europe. It will retail for roughly $16,500 US.