Of all vehicles, hand-powered tricycles are the worst affected by the rough, uneven roads of our cities.

A team from the engineering design department of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M), is addressing this concern of persons with disabilities, many of whom depend on such tricycles.

The conventional tricycles are nothing but boxes that move, said M. Ramanathan, assistant professor at the department. “There is no heed paid to the physique of the person or his level of disability,” he said.

“Most of the people who depend on these tricycles are daily wage workers who have to travel long distances every day. The regular tricycles have no suspension and the riders are prone to spinal injuries. Most of them also cannot afford good medical care, and driving these tricycles for a long time affects their back,” he added.

To deal with the problem, the team has come up with a model tricycle that can be very useful to people who have a disability in their lower limbs, but a strong torso.

“The tricycle we have developed has parts that can be fitted by screws and the cranks and support can be changed according to the person’s need,” Prof. Ramanathan said.

The team has come up with a working model that is now being used by volunteers from a non-governmental organisation. The project was based on a study of people who use the tricycle, says the team that comprises Sandipan Bandyopadhyay, a faculty member and student researcher Aditya Soni.

Their tricycle is also better at manoeuvring and will enable the rider to make sharper turns on roads, thanks to a tweak in the design of the conventional model. The rider will not have to take a long detour to make a u-turn, Prof Ramanathan said

“Every time a person needs to be seated in a conventional tricycle or disembark from it, he needs help. But in our model we have attached footrests to help the rider do that. With a bigger seat and stronger tyres, the vehicle will also help vendors. And every part of the cycle cane be dismantled too, which makes it easier to transport,” he said. Since all the parts are manually adjustable, the cost of their tricycle is about Rs. 5,000 which is almost the same as that of a regular tricycle, he added.

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