Designing distributed renewable energy powered wheelchairs for sustainable rural mobility in Kenya
Bundi, Marita H.
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Victor Papanek the champion of social design remarks that designer should design for people‟s needs as opposed to their wants. One of the major point marks in social design is designing sustainable products and service systems for the developing world. The research was aimed at enhancing the mobility of persons on wheel chairs through the use of distributed renewable energy systems as a way of developing a sustainable system for the disabled in society. To establish the viability of using wheelchairs powered by distributed renewable energy to enhance rural mobility in Kenya. The researcher therefore intended to establish the scope of wheelchair design, manufacture, use and mobility in Kenya, establish user needs and affordances as well as challenges faced by wheelchair users in Kenya and their energy needs towards developing a framework for consideration in designing Distributed Renewable Energy powered Wheelchairs in Kenya and the rest of Africa. To achieve these objectives, the researcher used a design research approach as an integral part of the user-centered design process. The research methods employed included: a desk research approach of literature segmented thematically on mobility and disabled persons in society. Data collection was majorly through observation characterized by extensive use direct observation, still photography and video in the collection of information for further study. The data collected was documented, organized, connected to establish correlations, evaluated for alternative explanations and evidences and then represented in representative accounts. The researcher entirely used the APA Fifth Edition referencing. The researcher established that there is hardly any application of renewable energy in wheelchair users although the climatic conditions are sufficient enough. The wheelchair users face a number of challenges among them; inaccessibility to some areas as well as restricted mobility during extreme weather conditions, limited access to employment opportunities, poverty and a lack of well-developed transport systems. There are therefore sufficient amounts of sunshine to support the use of solar power in powering wheelchairs and developing systems for sustainable rural mobility in Kenya. Among the conditions for consideration in formulating a framework for designing solar powered wheelchairs include; enhanced local production, Design for Disassembly, durability and sustainable product service system design for the disabled. The research was organized into chapters carrying; Introduction, Literature Review, Research Methodology, Presentation of Research Findings, Conclusion and Recommendations, Bibliography and the last chapter Appendices.