Solar power technology has developed over the last century to give us everything from solar powered garden ornaments to homes and cars, but now the technology is expanding to bring that green energy innovation to the disability community with solar powered wheelchairs.
Various prototypes of solar powered wheelchairs have rolled onto the market to bring awareness of different ways to power the equipment that keeps many of us mobile every day. In 2013, a solar powered chair designed by students at the University of Virginia won first prize in a “change my life” competition honoring Cerebral Palsy Day. The chair was inspired by the folding roofs of convertible cars and features a 1 square meter solar panel along the top of the chair. This chair goes up to 5 miles per hour and lasts over 4 hours.
While this unique designs offers an innovative solution and option for wheelchair users while drawing positive attention to the disability community, the design is not the most practical for everyday use for the average wheelchair user. The overhead solar panel is quite large and slowly moves over the user’s head, making the design bulky. See what you think – you can watch a demo of how the wheelchair works at the video link below:
Another solar powered wheelchair prototype was designed by a paralyzed wheelchair user in Greece. This design is not just solar powered, it is also designed to enable the user to swim on their own! The chair device operates on a fixed-track which allows up to 30 or more wheelchairs to maneuver into the open sea or lake at the push of a button thanks to the solar power it uses to generate the energy. Users simply transfer from their own wheelchair onto the chair along the track
It is interesting to note that this design was born out of Greece, a country where the sea is a way of life. It puts all beach goers on an even playing field, allowing even people who traditionally wouldn’t be able to get into the water without help the chance to feel the waves with everyone else. The solar powered design fits perfectly into Greece’s sunny climate though may not fare as well if used in a different part of the world.
Watch how it works via the video link below:
What do you think of the solar powered wheelchair concept? Do you think it’s practical for everyday use or the average wheelchair user? How do you think concepts like the solar powered wheelchair help shape innovative solutions for people with disabilities? Share your opinion in the comments!
*Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons