Kathmandu, September 4
A team of Nepali engineers with support from the Centre for Independent Living claimed that they had invented the country’s first smart electric wheelchair.
The efficiency of the wheelchair branded ‘Leopard’ was demonstrated during its launch at a programme in Kathmandu. On the occasion, its designer Sunial Pariyar, 27, said, “We came up with the idea of inventing a user-friendly wheelchair after seeing the helpless condition of handicapped people
in the wake of the earthquakes last year.”
It is said the smart wheelchair runs for 25 km on one charge at a speed of 10 km per hour and the location of such wheelchairs can be traced through mobile applications, according to its makers.
Stakeholders, including members of organisations working for people with disabilities were of the opinion that wheelchairs of this kind should be manufactured on a mass scale. President of CIL Ganesh KC said, “The commercial production of such electric wheelchairs will be possible only with government support and we are working for that.”
KC said he was concerned about the sorry state of many roads in the capital that had led to handicapped people having a tough time while commuting on the roads. “The government can’t escape from its duty of building disabled-friendly road infrastructure.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Finance Uday Shamsher Rana pledged that the government would extend necessary help to engineers in their entrepreneurial pursuit.
“Although Nepal stands first in the South Asia region in term of gross domestic product-based investment on social security, the implementation part leaves a lot to be desired. Now it is time to see investment bringing changes in real life,” he said. “We can work on exempting taxes against import of batteries, joysticks and other sophisticated materials needed for manufacturing such wheelchairs,” the minister added.
An estimated 30,000 manual wheelchairs have been in use in Nepal, while the number of people with disabilities has been put at 70,000 in Nepal. The number is growing by 5,000 each year.
According to National Federation of the Disabled Nepal Chairperson Sudarshan Subedi, there are around 7,000 people with severe disabilities who are in need of sophisticated electric wheelchairs and hardly 20 such wheelchairs are in use in Nepal.
The programme was also attended by noted artistes Madan Krishna Shrestha and Haribansa Acharya. Addressing the programme, the duo lauded the innovation of young Nepali engineers and called upon the government to make best use of their talents.
A version of this article appears in print on September 05, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.