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Custom 'Rowing' Wheelchair for Teenager with Joint Disorder

Pedro, a patient at Shriners Hospital for Children, Houston has arthrogryposis, a congenital disorder causing severe limitation of movement in all his joints. Pedro's disability prevents him from pulling his arms in at the elbows – though he can push out. In addition, his wrists are locked in a rotated position. Rice University students are near completion of a four-year effort to make him a custom wheelchair, which works with a paddling motion that does not require Pedro to turn the wheels of his manual wheelchair by hand. The new chair has push-forward paddles instead of armrests. Pedro places his hands inside fabric loops and pushes to move. The spring-loaded arms do the work when it's time to pull his arms back to complete the cycle. The chair was built at Rice's Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK); the parts were fabricated and assembled there with the exception of hub-mounted transmissions on each wheel that allow Pedro to go forward and backward and also give him a neutral gear. Doctors at Shriners have suggested the wheelchair design may be suitable for people with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities.