As a student at the Cotting School, a school for people with disabilities, E.B. uses a wheelchair and is an active participant in Waypoint Adventures, which offers hikes, rock climbing, and other adventures for people with disabilities. Participants have to borrow all-terrain wheelchairs, and E.B. has found them to be uncomfortable and tiring to self-propel. Freedom Skis take a wheelchair already custom-fitted to the user and adapt it so that it can be pushed over the varied, snowy terrain by an able-bodied person. This allows the user to experience the joy of skiing instead of focusing on propelling themselves through the snow. E.B. has never been hiking in the snow, partly because Waypoint's existing wheelchairs for skiing in the snow are uncomfortable for her, an issue that Freedom Skis solve. Existing ski chairs are also expensive for families who do not have access to a program like Waypoint.
Freedom Skis improve on current options in several ways. Designed to be affordable for everyone and to allow more families to experience the joy of winter and skiing together, Freedom Skis were made mostly of PVC, 3D-printed connectors, and used skis, keeping the cost under $100, whereas the current ski wheelchairs on the market cost in the thousands. Freedom Skis also improve on current options by incorporating a system of springs that helps absorb shock for a smoother ride and allow the skis the necessary vertical freedom to navigate uneven trails, but not so much that the skis get caught in holes and come out from under the chair. Lastly, all of the current ski wheelchairs force the user to move from their usually custom-fitted chair into a different chair not designed with comfort in mind. Freedom Skis keep down costs and the user comfortable by using the user's own wheelchair. They also help normalize having a disability by allowing people who use wheelchairs ski, a popular and fun winter sport.
People with disabilities often face unnecessary limitations in their activities, due to a lack of innovative, affordable design to meet their needs. EB is a client who loves the outdoors and exploration but is in the the wheelchair. She has expressed that on these hikes her legs become sore and stiff because it is not her personal chair. These chairs are often not durable, efficient,comfortable, or affordable. Freedom Skis takes EB’s original chair and transforms it into a snow terrain chair. This adaptation allows EB to stay comfortable while allowing her to explore.
The basic design of the project uses PVC piping, skies, springs, and two to three pieces of three-dimensional modeling. There are two bigger skies that are on the back which [remove words wherever you can without sacrificing meaning] give support and stability and two front skis that help with steering. Each individual ski has its own suspension system, which allows helps with rough terrain and limits rotation of the skis. The four skis are screwed in with bolts that would normally be used for the wheels. The goal of the design is to provide the easiest way to put on the skis while still having efficiency, stability, and durability.