A team of 8 relatives of disabled children and 8 professionals have come together to invent a smart wheelchair that can be used by kids with severe disabilities. Most electric wheelchairs are operated by joysticks, making them unusable to children who don’t have the right motor or cognitive abilities. But the new wheelchair is customizable and can be operated by a simple push of a button, tilt of the head, voice command, or a pacifier, depending on the needs of each child.
Best of all, the wheelchair is copyright free and the inventors have posted online instructions so anyone who wants to can build their own. It was designed to use relatively cheap materials. Soon, the inventors hope to start holding workshops to teach other families how they can build their own.
This smart wheelchair uses 3D sensors to detect objects, determine how far away they are, and figure out the best way to go around them.
It has been a major blessing to children like Anna Raig who lives with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, a rare genetic condition. Her symptoms include very limited physical strength, growth problems, and limited communication, making it hard for her to interact with her environment. But now, with the chair, she is able to interact, explore, and play.
“In the end for the children this is also a way to play. It’s how they learn. Like any other child,” said Fran Segovia, one of the inventors and father of a disabled child. “This can give these children, who are obviously a lot more limited in their ability… the opportunity to be able to experience that feeling… a way for them to play.”