A hand-trike assembly - complete with an additional wheel, drive, and hand-powered element - that can be attached to wheelchairs created by LDS Charities has been developed by a group of six engineering students at Brigham Young University (BYU). The hand trike, which lets people pedal with their hands instead of their feet, will enable users to travel greater distances with less effort. Having a wheelchair is a great start, but a lot of people still need to go 5 or 10 kilometers a day to get to the market or get to work. That kind of distance is difficult, exhausting and time-consuming using a traditional wheelchair. LDS Charities asked the students to design and prototype a trike that is durable, maneuverable, multi-geared to handle varied terrain and built with parts that are easily replaceable. 

The hand trike also has to be adjustable to fit multiple wheelchairs, affordable and easy to use for a disabled person. After finishing their initial prototype, students asked wheelchair users to test it out and give feedback. The user-feedback loop proved critical, providing two major improvements: 1) a lock on the wheel of the hand trike, making it more stable during assembly and 2) a simpler attachment component that allows users to snap the unit right onto an existing chair.

The updated product is a one-piece hand trike unit that is stable, multi-geared and allows for continuous motion dependent upon on upper arm and chest muscles in a more ergonomic position. On top of that, the total cost is under $90. The hand trike has also received endorsements from wheelchair users like Weston Daley, one of the capstone team’s valuable testers who is paralyzed from the sternum down and doesn’t have the abdominal strength for complicated assembly.

The capstone student team, which includes engineering students Nicole Laws, Ryan Larson, Jon Barley, Travis Ward, and Andrew Funk, are continuing to refine the hand trike and have already developed an agreement with BYU’s university accessibility center for additional testing by campus wheelchair users. The goal is for LDS Charities to eventually produce 5,000 hand trike units per year and the team is optimistic they could be shipping the products out by the end of 2018. There are 60 to 70 countries that have never seen something like this.

This is a product that will be a life-changer for a lot of people. There’s not a lot of other products like this out there. It’s really kind of unique. According to LDS Charities, roughly 70 million people globally need a wheelchair and 45 million of those people don’t have access to one. Under the wheelchair initiative, which is part of the global humanitarian effort of the LDS Church, some 55,000 wheelchairs are provided to people in need annually. LDS Charities works with established programs in each country to ensure the wheelchairs get to the right people.