Disabled
Innovations like SafariSeat are about to revolutionize mobility for disabled persons in developing countries.

It is no secret that poverty and disability are correlated. According to the World Health Organization, about 15 percent of the world population—over a billion people—have a disability. Of this population, 80 percent live in developing countries, specifically in isolated rural areas where medical services are few and far between.

When it comes to physical disability, studies have shown that there is another correlation between access to wheelchair and GDP per capita. In developed countries, there are about 30 wheelchairs per 10,000 people. In developing countries, however, this figure decreases to only two or three wheelchairs per 10,000 people. But a severe difference between these cultures lies in the amount of walking done: in countries like the U.S., those aged 65 and older walk eight percent of daily trips. In Sub-Saharan Africa, walking comprises 50 percent of all daily trips. Mobility for disabled persons in developing countries is also the area where such access lies farthest beyond reach.

But Janna Deeble, creator of SafariSeat, could very well be the solution. SafariSeat is an off-road, hand-powered redesign of the wheelchair purposed to travel on all-terrain.

When growing up in Kenya, he had befriended Letu, a man immobilized by polio and thus trapped in the confines of his home. Ten years later, when Deeble had left Kenya and Letu, he suffered an accident that caused him to be wheelchair-bound for months. His tough experience surfaced memories of Letu’s lifelong hardship—and SafariSeat sparked in his mind.

SafariSeat uses an easy mechanism that “mimics car suspension ensuring all wheels remain on the ground at all times”. The wheelchair itself is intentionally low-cost, with the idea that local workshops can use even materials like bike parts to repair them. Deeble also called for the designs to be open-sourced, meaning that the blueprints are free to all people in all nations. This enables workshops to make SafariSeat for their residents, create “local, sustainable employment” and provide access to mobility for disabled persons in developing countries.

When finished, Deeble hopes to take this design to those in the remotest areas of East Africa and revolutionize the lives of all like Letu.

Brenna Yowell

Photo: Flickr