One cannot truly understand what it’s like to have a physical disability that keeps you from living life to its fullest. Only people who have to live with such challenges know the various consequences that they have to face.
While disabled members of the world might get used to moving around using a wheelchair, there are many things that are still pretty much impossible for them to do. One of these is moving between different vertical levels. Ramps, and other such design elements, do make it easier for them to access public spaces, but these solutions cannot be implemented everywhere. Someone living in a house with a regular staircase might never be able to freely go upstairs without the help of someone else.
An Idea to Reinvent the Wheelchair
In 2010, an ingenious idea to reinvent the wheelchair came from the mind of Alan Lee Siu-lun. He had watched a program on the television, showing a bathroom designed for disabled people that had some steps outside it. This made the bathroom unusable for disabled people, as their wheelchairs could not climb the steps.
Lee created a small model of a wheelchair that made use of pedrails instead of regular wheels. The idea was to allow disabled people to climb some steps with their wheelchairs, if need be. It would help them be a little freer as far as their mobility in public areas was concerned.
Out Comes B-Free
Lee took his idea to the next stage a good six months later, when he heard the story of a man who couldn’t get out of his house because the building he lived in had a lot of stairs. Lee then dedicated himself to his idea and out came the B-Free, a wheelchair running on pedrails which had the ability to go up and down stairs.
Not Just for Improving Mobility
Lee incorporated much more into his design than just pedrails. He made sure that the wheelchair was stable enough to move up and down steps. He also added a handy feature which allowed users to adjust the height of the chair. This was helpful in many situations, such as having dinner at a high table or working at a low desk. The feature also helped disabled people to raise their chairs high enough so they could be at an adult’s eye-level. The wheelchair, therefore, not only let people be free from everyday nuisances but also helped establish their involvement in conversations and meetings in a much better way.
Perhaps the best thing about Lee is that he never completed his technical education in electrical engineering, which allowed him to be more creative. He only studied up to the Form Five level of education. In his own words, this allowed his imagination to run wild, as opposed to those students who went on to study electrical engineering and its conventional practices. Lee is now working on more inventions, and is also trying to improve his B-Free wheelchair so that it can be certified as a safe vehicle for daily use.