PWDs can now live life in the fast lane
NGO introduces locally designed e-wheelchairBy Nathaniel R. Melican
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Tired of going from one place to another in a slow-moving wheelchair? Let a motorized one developed locally by a group of persons with disabilities get you to your destination faster and in style.
The Tahanang Walang Hagdanan Inc. (TWH) marked its 40th anniversary the other day by introducing its own version of an electricity-powered wheelchair aimed at increasing the mobility of the differently-abled.
“Our e-wheelchair was designed by Filipino wheelchair users for none other than Filipino wheelchair users. The controls are easy to reach and also easy to manipulate, the motor is silent and the whole thing is easy to use,” TWH spokesperson Maricel Abary Candole told the Inquirer in an interview.
At first glance, the e-wheelchair may not look much except for a third wheel and a motor assembly developed by the organization’s research and development arm.
It is capable, however, of traveling from 15 to 20 kilometers on a single charge of its zero-maintenance lead-acid gel batteries with a top speed of around 15 kilometers per hour. It takes around five to eight hours for the batteries to fully charge. Handlebars enable the user to switch the device on and off, brake and control its direction and speed.
“What makes our invention more interesting is that it is locally produced and we can retrofit it to your wheelchair and customize it according to your needs,” Candole said.
Development of the e-wheelchair started last year when TWH’s research and development group thought of new ways to help wheelchair-bound people move about. The nongovernment organization which helps the orthopedically handicapped, however, has been receiving inquiries about motorized wheelchairs for some time, she added.
“We have been making ‘tricycles’ especially designed to carry people in wheelchairs. We get a scooter or motorcycle and attach a sidecar with a ramp [so that wheelchair users could climb into the vehicle],” Candole said.
“However, we realized it was quite cumbersome. What if the wheelchair users find it hard to climb up the ramp? So we said, why not just design a motor-powered wheelchair that their users could actually control?” she told the Inquirer.
Ready to go commercial
After considerations such as the materials to be used, the size and weight of the assembly were finalized, the designers went to work. TWH’s e-wheelchair—unveiled during the NGO’s 40th anniversary program on Friday which was attended by President Aquino, is ready to go commercial.
“At Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, we produce about 60 units a month. We can also mass produce the motor assembly depending on the demand,” Candole said.
Right now, however, a brand new wheelchair plus the electric motor assembly from the organization will cost nearly P50,000.
However, Candole believes the price is just right and competitive compared to other motorized wheelchairs in the market. “The price of the motor assembly is nothing compared to foreign motorized wheelchairs which are admittedly more sophisticated,” she said.
“What I can say, however, is that our e-wheelchair is very much adapted to Philippine conditions, such as our rugged roads, which could be challenging to navigate sometimes,” she added.
Candole said the e-wheelchair would benefit people who travel long distances every day or those who have difficulty using their hands to turn the wheels such as those suffering from polio.
At the anniversary celebration, TWH inaugurated its training center for persons with disabilities which also doubles as a multipurpose hall and an evacuation center for nearby community during calamities.
Funding for the project which totaled P3.9 million was donated by the Japanese government through the Japanese Embassy’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project.
New training center
The training center can accommodate 500 to 1,000 persons and is designed with accessibility features such as ramps and spacious toilets for disabled people.
The President, meanwhile, expressed hope that the center would be of great help to many PWDs in the coming years.
“With these new facilities, we hope more opportunities for growth will open up for persons with disabilities,” he said in his speech.
“You can expect that the government will continue to strive to help the PWD sector and to support the estimated 1.5 million Filipinos with disabilities nationwide,” he added.
He also lauded the organization’s efforts to help PWDs through the years. “I’ve been hearing about Tahanang Walang Hagdanan for sometime, and I appreciate the example that you showed us. Because instead of quitting, you fought. When we fight, we have hope. And with your example, many people will have a bright future,” Aquino said.