Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 11:23 UK

Wheelchair designed 'for Africa'

The wheelchair includes levers
A wheelchair made from spare parts - including mountain bike tyres - has been created for people in Africa.

It is designed to overcome two big problems on the continent - rough terrain and cost.

With greater support and thicker tyres, the new wheelchair negotiates rougher ground better than traditional versions.

And by salvaging spare parts, it's hoped the all-terrain wheelchair could be cheaply manufactured.

Project leader Dr Mike Clifford said: "There's lots of (traditional) wheelchairs in developing countries - many have been donated by UK hospitals or US hospitals and charities.

"They're donated with the best will in the world, but often they are not appropriate for the terrain they're going into.

"The problem is that the tyres are often too thin to deal with rough roads.

"It's a bit like riding a racing bike over a ploughed field."

The new wheelchair overcomes this problem in three ways.

  • It has thicker, deep-tread mountain bike tyres.
  • Its drive wheels are at the front, with a third wheel for stability at the rear.
  • It includes wooden levers which can be used for extra torque when required.
The wheelchair was designed as part of a year-long project by Dr Clifford's engineering students at the University of Nottingham.

It was suggested by an associate of Dr Clifford who reported problems with wheelchairs in Kenya.

It is an example of so-called "appropriate technology", which takes into account environmental, ethical and economic concerns of the communities which use it.

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