Our process is rooted in a philosophy known as "human-centered design." This customer-centric approach involves iterative prototyping and careful consideration of the entire product experience. We didn't want to just make a pretty product. We wanted to make a product that met important user needs. We wanted to make a product that would help people achieve great things.
When we created the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC)- specifically designed for disabled individuals in developing countries - we used a footrest inspired by the Whirlwind Roughrider. We designed it with a toe-guard in front, to keep the rider's feet from hitting the front wheel or obstacles in their path. It's adjustable up and down, but the process requires hand tools and is usually only done once per rider. When we redesigned the Freedom Chair for the US market, we wanted to use the LFC footrest as a starting point, but to make something even better.
I remember when the Freedom Chair was a brainstorming session on a whiteboard, in a long-neglected building in the northwest corner of the MIT campus, in a room we affectionately called the "MIT Mobility Lab." We were trying to reinvent the wheelchair, to design something that could help people with disabilities travel long distances outdoors, over rough terrain and pavement, and then move around indoors when they got to their destinations.
We like to think of the Freedom Chair as the best of beauty and brains: it's visually appealing and efficiently engineered, and it took years of dedication, multiple prototypes, and a lot of feedback from wheelchair riders to get here. Read on to learn about 6 surprisingly awesome design features of the Freedom Chair!