I need a wheelchair that works by leg power
January 14, 2011 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Is there a such thing as a manual wheelchair that can be operated by foot? Such as seated-walking or pedalling, for someone who has somewhat working legs but has other reasons for being unable to walk?

I am disabled with severe CFS/ME. I believe I would be greatly helped by a wheelchair, but I cannot self-propel because my shoulders are weaker than any other part of me. My legs are the strongest, but managing balance and supporting my full weight exhausts me so quickly that I cannot walk more than about 30 metres without having to rest.

A power wheelchair is far out of my means at present, and the NHS does not consider me disabled enough to supply a power chair, though I can probably get a voucher for a manual chair.

Does anyone know of any sort of wheelchair or device or adaptation that would allow me to propel myself with my legs while seated? I'm in the UK, so sources would need to be UK or Europe to be feasible.

Kind regards
posted by happyturtle to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe something like this trike?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:54 AM on January 14, 2011

Someone I knew when I lived elsewhere used to use a regular manual wheelchair (I think one of the ones without the big back wheels for pushing oneself) with the footrests up. She would move herself along with her feet. I don't know how easy it was for her, and I never saw her go long distances that way, but it seemed to work for her at least to some extent.
posted by sueinnyc at 6:59 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

It looks like there is an out of production footpedal wheelchair called the EZ-chair. Hopefully there is a secondary market.
posted by mkb at 7:00 AM on January 14, 2011

Best answer: A bit of Googling found this cycling attachment for manual wheelchairs - it ends up looking a bit like a trike: Speedy Pedalofit, from the UK. Doing a search on the product name will bring up videos and such (I'm at work, so can't view any videos to let you know how pertinent they are, sorry). Unfortunately the root product page at speedybikes.co.uk doesn't seem to be around any more... Maybe you could find some on ebay, or email the bromakin.co.uk people (linked above) to ask if they know a place?
posted by fraula at 7:18 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know a lot of the innovations in assistive devices and prosthetics come from home hobbyists who have really specialized needs that are not well-served by the mass market. A friend of mine who has a prosthetic leg has had a lot of success working with friends who are engineers and like solving this kind of problem to create a foot/leg that works better for climbing for her than the one she got from the regular medical supply place.

I wonder if there's an engineering class or club near you that would find it interesting and engaging to work on this project?
posted by rosa at 7:37 AM on January 14, 2011

I thought this question sounded famililar to one that I answered earlier - and found it was from you. Were the Red Cross and the Independent Living Centres unhelpful? I'm genuinely interested to know, in case I have cause to point people in their direction in the future.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:41 AM on January 14, 2011

From rosa's point - Remap are a an organised group of volunteers that build adapted stuff for people with disabilities.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:44 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my neighbors does the same thing sueinnyc mentioned, but for long straight stretches he pushes himself backwards (using his feet). Not the answer you're looking for, I know, but it might help if you have to make do.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:24 AM on January 14, 2011

Have you seen or heard of the Meywalk MK3 or Meywalk 2000?

It seems like they might meet your needs, I have seen one in use and the user seems to sit on a bicycle type seat and use their legs to propel themselves.
posted by davey_darling at 8:53 AM on January 14, 2011

Response by poster: @Coobeastie: My family ended up getting a wheelchair for me from a yardsale that I used for a while, but it was clearly meant for someone much larger and heavier than me, so after a while, it got donated on to someone else who could make use of it.

I tried some rollators in a disability shop, but it felt like they were really just putting too much strain on my poor weak shoulders to make up for any benefit. Then I ended up bedridden for some months, so mobility wasn't even really on the table for a while.

I think getting a clever person from a bike shop or an engineering student to come up with a footpedal attachment is the best way, while making sure that it can still be pushed by someone else when I'm too feeble for even that much.
posted by happyturtle at 11:02 AM on January 14, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, and there wasn't an Independent Living Centre closer than London, so sadly, that wasn't an option. But I thank you very much for your previous help.
posted by happyturtle at 11:07 AM on January 14, 2011

I also have a friend who propels herself in a wheelchair with her feet.

Manual wheelchairs with partially powered wheels exist (less work for your shoulders).

Expensive (£1500?) wheelchairs are very lightweight (like bicycles) and might be ok.

If you're in the UK, get a referral to an occupational therapist, and the NHS Wheelchair Service. (If you're not in the UK, I still think an occupational therapist will help.)
posted by plonkee at 3:57 PM on January 14, 2011

A volunteer organisation like Technical Aid to the Disabled should be able to help you - they aim to help people with disabilities overcome problems by creating, modifying or repairing devices where there is no other solution readily available.

TADSA are Australian, but I'm guessing that there should be UK counterparts?

You could even contact TADSA at admin@tadsa.org.au and see if they are aware of any equivalent UK organisations, they may well be.
posted by with the singing green stars as our guide at 4:23 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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