By Nicole Hegarty.
People living with disabilities will soon be able to get back on a bike and enjoy what the Sunshine Coast has to offer.
Sunshine Coast not-for-profit organisation 121 Care Inc. and the Bike Chair inventor Bill Forward have joined forces to increase production of this valuable tool.
121 Care Inc. general manager Kym Chomley said she was excited to be involved and further their ability to assist clients with disabilities to live an independent life.
“It’s about bringing people with disabilities into the community so they can participate as well,” she said.
“It allows them to do whatever they want in their lives and be a part of the community, whereas in the past they were locked away.
“Their husband, wife, carer or friend can take them out for a bike ride and they benefit from being outside.”
The Bike Chair was created by replacing the front wheel of a standard bike with a seat mounted on two wheels.
Inventor and Buderim resident Bill Forward said he built the bike so he and his wife Glad could continue to enjoy the outdoors despite her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
“We loved bike riding but [because of her Alzheimer’s] she would stumble or fall,” he said.
“We had to either use a wheelchair or, being a creative type, I thought I’d make a Bike Chair.
“It not only liberated us, but expanded our whole horizon.”
121 Care Inc. project manager Rob Walter said since beginning work on the project at Cotton Tree two months ago, he has overseen a plan to meet the demand for the Bike Chair.
“We are re-engineering the design so it’s more transportable, and lighter so it can fit into a station wagon,” he said.
“At the moment it comes all together, but we are looking at attaching the chair to any bike and making it foldable like a wheelchair.”
Mr Walter said while the local invention has received international interest, construction would remain on the Sunshine Coast.
“We are going to be sourcing parts and getting parts together and setting up a social enterprise workshop on the Sunshine Coast to put it together,” he said.
“Part of the sales will go towards a trust for Glad who was the inspiration behind the whole thing, keeping true to Bill’s original dream.
“Seeing firsthand how it [the Bike Chair] kept their way of life going, there definitely was a story behind it.”
Mr Forward said biking families with disabled children who had previously been unable to ride as a family were now able to do so.
“I hope it can be used to liberate people who are confined to wheelchairs and enable them to go on bike rides,” he said.
“We still use it but not so much.”
Mr Forward said after producing about a dozen Bike Chairs issues with gaining the necessary insurance for production forced him to give up the project.
“We had to stop because insurance pulled the plug,” he said.
“They said they needed an engineer to certify the Bike Chair.
“That’s what Rob is trying to do.”