Childhood Friend's Plight That Inspired World Acclaimed Innovation [VIDEO]

  • Janna Deeble (centre) a wheelchair designer, shares a light moment with a child and physically challenged man in Samburu on October 26, 2016.
    Janna Deeble (centre) a wheelchair designer, shares a light moment with a child and physically challenged man in Samburu on October 26, 2016.
  • Most of the world's greatest or rather remarkable innovations can be attributed to life's experiences. Banter or a problem encountered, and for Ken Mwirandu, it was not any different.

    Mwirandu made the first off-road wheelchair, designed and built in Kenya in collaboration with UK based investors. His company, SafariSeats designs innovative wheelchairs that facilitate disabled persons to manoeuvre even the toughest of terrains as reported by CNN.

    He conceived the idea to embark on the invention based on the memory of a disabled childhood friend.

    “Growing up I had a friend who had a mobility impairment and I saw first-hand how she struggled to operate in the local environment. The memory of her truly inspired me to take action and help people in similar situations," Mwirandu told CNN.

    All-terrain wheelchair developed by SafariSeats.
    All-terrain wheelchair developed by SafariSeats.

    He stated that his innovation was focused on not only mobility but also the ability to afford the disabled a full, independent life.

    Low-cost wheelchair solutions are limited in Kenya, and in most instances are donations from individuals and Non Governmental Organizations. And sometimes can develop mechanical problems. This Mwirandu believes fell short of what the country's terrain really called for.

    “Even though the people donating them have the right intentions, you find that because these donated wheelchairs are not suitable for the Kenyan environment, they tend to break quite easily and it’s very hard or even impossible for users to get them repaired locally," Mwirandu remarked.

    It is then that he approached the UK investors of SafarSeat regarding their open-source design. Successful negotiations resulted in a subsequent launch of the first-ever manufacturing facility at Kenya's coast.

    The chair is developed with special features that make it suitable for the Kenyan terrain. It also employs the use of basic and unique materials which make it easy to fix.

    Mwirandu does not stop at just manufacture and distribution of the wheelchairs. He goes further to visit the users in order to establish how it has impacted their lives. 

    “We at SafariSeat like to follow up on our users just to see how it is impacting their lives. But one thing that I didn’t expect was the kind of bond that you form with the people. It makes me a part of their family and that for me gives me a lot of joy," Mwirandu stated.

    “A user who has a SafariSeat will be able to live an active political, social, economic life. They’ll also be able to overcome any stigma that’s associated with a physical disability and avoid being marginalized in their communities," he added.

    Mwirandu hopes that more and more companies and individuals will be inspired by his work, and as a result, collaborate to open manufacturing workshops around the world.

    His work has been featured on several international media outlets; Dailymail, Westlondon, CNN, among others, all awed by his remarkable work.