Many people have to use wheelchairs for conditions other than lower body paralysis. A variety of muscle and joint disorders can make both arms and legs ineffective, and even operating traditional wheelchairs can be a challenge. For people like Pedro, a fifteen year old with arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that distorts and limits joint movement, powered wheelchairs are a poor option because of their size and weight. While the boy can’t grip, he has considerable ability to push with his arms, so students at Rice University developed a wheelchair specifically for his unique anatomy.
The chair works similar to a rowing exercise machine, with two push pedals up front from which power is transferred to the wheels. The user simply pushes against the pedals as much or as little as necessary to rotate the wheel connected to that pedal. Here’s a video from Rice showing off the new wheelchair design: