Off-road revolution!

Some people, confined to a wheelchair, still want the exhilaration of the off road experience. They want to leave smooth pavements behind them and tackle the more challenging environments of the forest path, open fields, beaches even. Exercise, fresh air and broader boundaries are what this wheel chair user is looking for. And there are also those who live in countries where pristine pavements don’t exist and to travel means perambulating along unmade tracks. This person simply wants to be able to travel.

Either way, a standard wheel chair is not going to be up to the task. So your coffee time challenge this month is to come up with a new design of wheelchair that will meet these diverse needs. In the case of the off-roader it may be that what we are looking at is a second wheel chair, while in the case of the no-roader, where it is likely that cost is an issue, this will be their only wheelchair and must therefore be multipurpose. It must, for example, be small enough for the no-roader to use indoors and, for the off-roader, to be able to fit in the boot of a car.

It could also be that power is either not desired, if exercise and health is part of the goal, or is not readily available – so do we look at a purely mechanical solution, or should there be some form of battery?

Other considerations might be safety – it needs to be stable, weight and manoeuvrability. We do, as always, have a solution in mind that we will reveal next month. If you have any ideas either email them to the editor ( or leave your idea below as a comment.

Last month we asked you to design a wheelchair that was as capable indoors as it was going off-road in the countryside. It could be a crucial form of transport for disabled people, opening up many exciting recreational opportunities.

Our solution comes from GRIT, an MIT spin-out. Its Freedom Chair, it claims, is the most versatile chair on the market, designed from the ground up to handle any terrain.

From trails to grass to snow, the Freedom Chair is built for the active user wanting to expand his or her horizons.

It deploys patented easy-push levers to provide both power and steering and can be used indoors as well as being easily folded to fit in a car boot.

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