The Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC) was designed by the development team at MIT to help people with physical disabilities in developing countries and has been in operation since 2008. It has been tested in East Africa, Central America and India. The LFC uses a unique lever drivetrain which makes it faster than conventional wheelchairs and enables it to travel over extremely rough terrain. Instead of using gears and derailleurs which are likely to break under the rough conditions in developing countries, the user can change gears and achieves a 3:1 change in mechanical advantage by simply moving his hands up and down a set of levers that are connected to the drivetrain. Grabbing high on the levers provides more torque to get over obstacles, while grabbing low on the levers increases angular velocity for fast travel on smooth ground. By using common bicycle parts in the production of the LFC, the costs are kept low and users, even in rural villages, can easily repair and maintain the product themselves.
Over 65 million people, an estimated 1% of the world's population, need a wheelchair. Providing wheelchairs which are applicable, well-designed, fitted and affordable enhances mobility and also opens up a world of education, work and social life for those in need of such support (World Health Organisation).
Donor-funded non-profit organisations have tried to aid by mass-producing and distributing hospital-style wheelchairs in developing countries. However, these have proven to be unfit for the terrain as they cannot cope with rough terrain and spare parts have been difficult to procure.
The wheelchairs enable mobility across long and difficult terrain. Thereby, they not only enhance a sense of independence, but also, provide the opportunity to access education, employment and participation in community life.
Materials: Mild steel and bicycle parts, ensuring that spare parts are always available, even in the most rural village
Benefit: Comparative testing shows that the LFC is 80% faster than a conventional wheelchair on the road and that users can produce 50% more torque at the wheels, enabling them to overcome obstacles in the road.
Costs: approximately $200 USD
Overview of the activities of the "empowering people. Award" winning solution Leveraged Freedom Chair in India.
North America: Guatemala, Haiti
Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania
Asia: India, Philippines, Vietnam
Organization: GRIT - USA
Contact: Tish Scolnik
Used by: Guatemala, Haiti, India, Kenya, Philippines, Vietnam, Uganda