Pakistani engineer reinvents the wheelchair

Engineer Pervez Durrani promises improved mobility for people with special needs. Photo: Zahid Gishkori

Engineer Pervez Durrani promises improved mobility for people with special needs. Photo: Zahid Gishkori

Pervez Durrani’s invention is a big one for a small town like Layyah in Punjab. The engineer has designed a three-wheeled wheelchair with the help of his students at the Government Polytechnic College, Layyah. It is a specialised machine with a steering wheel, enabling people with physical impairments to get around a lot easier than is possible with a conventional wheelchair. Young local engineers call it the tricycle, while Durrani claims it is his Mercedes. In function, it is similar to a Segway PT sans battery power.

“I came up with the idea after people with physical impairments urged me to invent a vehicle for them,”

Sitting in a small room along with a student, he recalls the time he saw a man who had lost both his legs being helped by a family member. “I thought about why he needed another person to push his wheelchair,” shares Durrani, explaining the impetus to invent his own contraption.

“The idea took me hundreds of days to execute due to the limited resources available to my students at the college. The aim was to eliminate all problems faced by a person with special needs in getting around.”

Durrani is quick to answer the one overarching question that hovers above all such inventions: price? He says the vehicle is put together using locally available and inexpensive parts. Though a specific price tag has not yet been decided, he has decided to mass produce the wheelchair following the encouraging response he received at Expo Centre Lahore, where the invention was showcased earlier this year. Investors, too, seem eager to jump in and it might not be very long before the wheelchair hits the market.

Engineer Pervez Durrani stands next to a multimedia projector he invented. Photo: Zahid Gishkori

Engineer Pervez Durrani stands next to a multimedia projector he invented. Photo: Zahid Gishkori

Explaining how it works, Durrani says the steering is connected to a crank shaft via a rod at the rear wheel shaft. “When pushed forward, the steering powers the rear wheels. Pulling it towards the driver makes the vehicle back up. Turning the steering left or right makes the vehicle change direction accordingly,” he adds.

The prototype has been tested by a number of people with special needs, who drove it with ease and said they would buy the product once it is available commercially. But Durrani still sees room for improvement. He says he can further streamline the design, but that would require some investment from a willing businessman. A canopy to protect the driver from sun and rain is one of the add-ons on his mind.

A graduate from University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, Durrani has always dreamt big. “My aim is to come up with more ideas and projects of human interest, and to promote my beloved country. I want to tackle the energy crisis by creating power at low cost. We work hard on new inventions, pushing boundaries so we can tell the world how talented the people of Pakistan are,” he says emphatically. “I’m not chasing wealth or fame. I only wish to serve my country because I believe every one of us should strive to make it a better place. An aimless life is certainly a sin. Those who do not have a definite aim are like travellers without a destination.”

And Durrani is not one to leave his life up to chance. He wants to mould his own destiny, but more than that, he wants to see people take charge of their lives. It’s a rhetoric politicians pitch mindlessly, and yet, hearing it from Durrani is like hearing it for the first time. Listen carefully.

A knack for the new

The unique wheelchair is not Pervez Durrani’s only attempt at reinventing a device to increase its accessibility and utility

Solar energy heat engine

This prototype is designed to convert solar energy into direct mechanical energy. A curved lens over a cylinder allows the air inside to expand from solar heat. The air then pushes the piston which drives a flywheel, transmitting energy to another piston and pushing back the air into the first cylinder. During this, the air cools and is re-heated by solar energy, producing mechanical energy.

Stair climber hand truck

This contraption has three wheels fitted in a triangular shape on either side. It runs on four wheels at a time while two remain upward. When the front wheel strikes a step, the trolley stops and the raised wheels rotate and climb over the step. This way, less force is required to haul luggage upstairs. Similarly, the front wheels rotate and go down the steps when required.

Water turbine

Durrani’s water turbine produces electricity even from low flow of water in a canal. Since it does not require high pressure of water from sources such as a fast-flowing river, producing energy can be much easier for those living in remote areas of the country.

Pedal-driven machines

Durrani has also made a pedal-driven washing machine and a pedal-driven grass-cutting machine. These inventions employ foot-power and do not require any electricity to run.

Originally Published in The Express Tribune