Durgapur News Desk, 27 February 2017: Scientists at Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-CMERI) in Durgapur have developed the country’s first intelligent and powered wheelchair for the physically challenged. The wheelchair features fully electronic soft-touch control and infrared-based obstruction warning. Earlier, such wheelchairs were imported.
Priced at INR 35,000, the wheelchair was launched on the occasion of the inauguration of year-long diamond jubilee celebration of CSIR-CMERI, Durgapur. It can detect obstacles at least 1m away, which will help physically challenged and elderly people who rarely have access to domestic help. It can also scale sloping pavements while maintaining stability and high maneuverability. Its modular construction and collapsible foot rest, light components and interchangeable seating enhance its endurance limit (8-10 hours for a normal intermittent run) without compromising safety.
CSIR-CMERI director Harish Hirani while addressing at the institute’s auditorium adjacent to Gandhi More in Durgapur said: “The wheelchair has differential steering, fully electronic soft-touch control and infrared-based obstruction warning features. It has six wheels to enhance mobility, stability and capability to turn 360 degrees in any narrow corridor. It offers high maneuverability to navigate smoothly on inclines. This cost-effective product has immense societal value for physically challenged and elderly people.”
Regarding portability, Hirani said: “It has a foldable foot rest. Research is on to make it completely foldable. It offers maneuverability on slopes up to 8-9 degrees in indoor environments.”
Federation of West Bengal Trade Association chairman Mahesh Kumar Singhania, a wheelchair user, said: “Quality wheelchairs are not available in Kolkata. At Rs 35,000, the price is still very high. The poor will be deprived of the intelligent wheelchair. If the government subsidises it, all sections can afford it.” Kumar also complained about the issue of after-sales service of the wheelchair manufacturing companies. He urged that the wheelchair manufacturers must provide after-sales service.