As of 2011, statistics show that there are 2.68 crore disabled people in India. And of that, a whopping 20.3% of them are movement disabled. And it’s a number that seems to be on the uptick, making it even more imperative to prioritise accessibility in the country.
Hoping to make mobility easier, researchers at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute in Durgapur, West Bengal, have developed what they note is the country’s first “smart” wheelchair. It was formally launched during the Diamond Jubilee Inaugural Programme on February 26.
Priced at ₹35,000, the wheelchairs are fully electronic and sport a control that is touch-sensitive. Being a “smart” device, it can detect obstacles at least a metre away and avoid them and can easily scale slopes that are at a tilt of 8 to 9 degrees.
The wheelchair for now has a foldable footrest but the team notes that efforts are underway to make the whole unit foldable in the near future.
Image for representation. Photo source
According to the director of CSIR-CMERI, Harish Hirani, the wheelchair has differential steering making movement even easier for the user. Speaking to the Times of India, he elaborates on the many features that the device boasts. He says, “It has six wheels to enhance mobility, stability and capability to turn 360 degrees in any narrow corridor. It offers high manoeuvrability to navigate smoothly on inclines.”
While there are similar models of wheelchairs available abroad, their price points are significantly higher as they have to be imported to India. The team believes that this will make it easier for various sections of the society who might otherwise be unable to afford something comparable.
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