We are convinced that wheelchair users are some of the most inventive, creative, and resourceful people on earth. We think they are the most qualified to be repairing assistive devices, building better ones, and getting those products to people who really need them.
The Zero-Turn Ranch Truck is built on a zero-turn Craftsman mower. The platform is being lengthened and the controls moved so it can be driven while seated in a wheelchair. Lots of brain power and prototyping is going into designing a lift system and a cargo box system.
The Seat Slider Kart mounts one or both seats on an inclined track that is powered by an electric actuator. The seat can be lowered to the best height for the wheeler to transfer out of their wheelchair. After connecting the seat belt, the seat is lifted up and into place. The slider system has possible uses on many types of vehicles.
The Twin Scooters represent an effort to provide street legal transportation for someone in a wheelchair—at a price under $5,000. The scooters are 50cc, electric start, with a smooth automatic transmission. It works well with one engine running or with both. We have rigged up a central handlebar that turns both front wheels. It has a 6” ground clearance (4” when loaded) with a 24” rear ramp. we don't have a “best” design for reverse yet. This has the potential for a bolt-together kit design where no welding is required.
The Blue Hybrid incorporates all of the technical features of the White Hybrid as well as sharing in its numerous improvements and upgrades.
The White Hybrid Kart was made from a 1995 EZ GO 36 volt electric golf cart. We use only three 12 volt batteries, plus a gasoline powered generator. This gives 2 hours of silent run time on electric and 6 hours on the electric-start gasoline generator. Electric actuators operate the side gates. The air system drops the kart flat for easy access and raises up 8” from the ground for driving. Operation is smooth and quiet. Steering effort is rather high on all our golf carts and the brakes are fair with rear drums only.
The Green Kneeling Kart was made from a 1991 E GO Workhorse with a 2-cylinder gas engine and variable belt drive. We made it longer and wider to accommodate two wheelchairs. The air suspension drops 8” for easy on and off. We use 8 Chevy pickup air shocks, an air compressor, and a two gallon air tank. We have a 30-second lift speed with two heavy wheelchairs. The rear jump seat often accommodates two other passengers. The speed is governed at about 15 mph. The ride is very smooth and can be adjusted as needed by changing the air pressure.
The Orange Kart Sidecar allows us to carry a passenger while seated in their wheelchair. An electric winch deploys the ramp. Because of the fragile health of most of our passengers, we keep speeds under 15 mph and the ride is OK.
The Orange Mower Kart has a centrifugal clutch and hand controls. It still has the original 5 speed crash box which is rather difficult to operate. Our gear ratio allows it to go over 40 mph, which is too fast for a vehicle with no suspension. It desperately needs a very smooth road or a go-kart track to enjoy it at high speed. For incredible one-finger brakes, we use 12” Honda brake rotors, Mazda calipers, and a Toyota clutch master cylinder. The handlebars are telescopic with individualized hand pieces. We incorporated a spring loaded park brake with a 1-second response time. It has dual gas tanks, LED lights, voltmeter, & a built-in battery and phone charger. The full roll cage also serves as a lift frame for getting in and out. Everything about the chassis was flimsy sheet metal that needed reinforcing. With only a one-wheel-drive differential, it has very poor traction in mud, but it is capable of producing dramatic burn outs.
The owner of this Palmer 3 wheeler asked us to perform these modifications to make it much more usable for him and his wife. A few years later he passed away and the 3 wheeler was donated to the Institute.
A team of very inventive, creative, and resourceful individuals was formed to prototype some radically unique grabbers.