The Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC) is a wheelchair designed to go anywhere. Such a product is in dire need, as 14 million people who need a wheelchair in the developing world live in rural areas where rough roads and muddy walking paths provide the only connections to community, education, and income. The LFC’s lever drivetrain enables its user to travel 10-20% faster on pavement than a conventional wheelchair and off-road, it’s like no other mobility aid available. The user effectively changes gears by simply moving her hands on the levers; grasping high on the levers increases the mechanical advantage while grasping low increases speed. All moving parts on the LFC are made from bicycle components, making the chair manufacturable and repairable anywhere in the developing world.
A recent trial in East Africa confirmed that the LFC is more capable off road than any other mobility aid, and that people with disabilities from many demographics can produce more power with less exertion using the lever drivetrain. Under a $50,000 grant from the Inter-American Development Bank, the next generation LFC will be developed, prototyped, and trialed in Guatemala starting in the spring of 2010. The LFC was a winner in the 2008 MIT IDEAS competition, won first place in the 2009 ASME IDETC Graduate Student Mechanism Design Competition, and is in the process of being patented.