Your average car is designed to drive on a paved road, and your average wheelchair is designed to roll across smooth surfaces. But just as 4x4 manufacturers design vehicles for alternate terrains, a host of inventors have begun wondering why wheelchairs oughtn't do the same. Handicapped folks, after all, do not live only in cities; and those in rural areas may not even have paved driveways.
A company called TC Mobility produces the Tank Chair, an off-road, all-weather wheelchair that "conquers streams, mud, snow, sand, and gravel, allowing you to get back to nature. Using rubber tracks and high-torque electric motors, TankChair will take you anywhere and back."
Here's Tank Chair inventor Brad Soden buzzing around on his other creation, the Speedster, which is made for less challenging terrain yet, as the name suggests, higher speeds:
UK-based company Molten Rock produces an off-road wheelchair called the BOMA 7, which is less tank and more mountain bike. While less ruggedized than the Tank Chair, it has the added advantage of being easier to transport via minivan or station wagon.
Going more extreme, a robotics company called Howe and Howe Technologies developed their Ripchair model specifically for a disabled veteran customer. (While this video from last year notes that the chair is in production, we were not able to find it on their site, indicating it may have remained a one-off.)
The craziest wheelchair action we've seen is also the most recent. A UK-based creative nonprofit called Freewheeling sponsored the following video, called "Creating the Spectacle." Artist and wheelchair user Sue Austin cruises around underwater on a specially-modified rig with a scuba apparatus. The agility the chair is able to achieve is pretty stunning:
With this last one, you may be asking yourself "Why in a wheelchair?" as it clearly violates the form-follows-function tenet. But that is precisely why they made the video (which will actually evolve into a series of underwater events done from the wheelchair). "The [standard] wheelchair is one of the most ubiquitous images of disability," the organization writes. "This work will focus on leaving a legacy of attitudinal change through the creation of surprising and unexpected juxtapositions which present empowered and empowering images."