Leveraged Freedom Chair Indian Trial and Dissemination

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $16,500

This E-Team is developing the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC), a lever-propelled wheelchair designed specifically to meet the mobility needs of people with disabilities in developing countries. Any wheelchair designed for developing countries needs to be both maneuverable in the home and able to travel long distances on rough roads; the LFC meets the requirements with a lever drive train that allows the rider to use mechanical advantage to efficiently traverse virtually any terrain.

The LFC looks like a normal wheelchair, but with tall levers pointing up from the wheels and a bike-like third wheel attached the to axle. Placing your hands high on the levers and pumping them back and forth generates high torque and an effective low gear; placing your hands low on the levers creates high angular velocity in the drivetrain and an effective high gear.

The E-Team will design and test the LFC in partnership with the largest disability organization in the world, the Indian organization Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), Jaipur, also known as Jaipur Foot.


  • CNN features the Freedom Chair (April 2011)
  • The team will produce 200 chairs in June 2012 and have capacity to make 500/month. In a small test of ten users in India, four individuals with LFCs gained employment as a result of their newfound mobility.
  • The team is a finalist for MassChallenge and recently released a new 2-minute video (October 2012)
  • GRIT was one of four $100k Diamond Winners at MassChallenge. Congrats! (October 2012)

New nonprofit started in MIT class


Over the past two years the Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries (WDDC) class has provided an opportunity for MIT students to use their technical skills to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities in the developing world. The class focuses on bettering the lives of others by improving wheelchairs and tricycles in the developing world.

A nonprofit organization has recently sprung from this project. Worldwide Mobility (WM) is an organization that was started in the class. The aim of WM is to channel donated funds directly to wheelchair organizations in developing countries. “The motivation behind this project,” says Amos Winter, primary investigator of the project,  “Is to compete with low-quality donated wheelchairs and to support the organizations that would not otherwise have access to foreign donors. “

Read about the project. Visit the course website.

Wheelchair-Mounted Pelvic Restraint

University of Pittsburgh, 2005 - $15,250

Wheelchair-bound individuals frequently use minivans, para-transit vans, public transportation and private vehicles as means of transportation. While their wheelchairs are usually tied down to prevent them from moving during normal driving conditions or in the event of an accident, the individual relies mainly on a nylon safety belt system (similar to a conventional seat belt) that is both unwieldy and frequently disused. This E-Team developed a rigid restraint system mounted to the user’s wheelchair, securing the occupant in position at the level of the pelvis. The restraint is composed of two halves of a mechanical, rigid, padded bar attached to the side of the wheelchair. A ratchet system fits into place around the user’s pelvis, and a spring-loaded release lever allows the user to unlock the restraint from either side of the wheelchair.

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