Wheelchairs ‘walk’ extra mile

2019-02-06 06:00
The Product Deve­lopment Technology Station (PDTS) team of the Central University of Techno­logy with the two beneficiaries are from the left, front: Rensché du Toit and Corine de Jonge; back: Marinus Pot­gieter (PDTS mana­ger), Allan Kinnear (PDTS project engineer), Schalk van der Merwe (project founder) and Katlego Makgeledisa (PDTS intern). Photo: Supplied

The Product Deve­lopment Technology Station (PDTS) team of the Central University of Techno­logy with the two beneficiaries are from the left, front: Rensché du Toit and Corine de Jonge; back: Marinus Pot­gieter (PDTS mana­ger), Allan Kinnear (PDTS project engineer), Schalk van der Merwe (project founder) and Katlego Makgeledisa (PDTS intern). Photo: Supplied

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Two wheelchair users, Rensché du Toit and Corine de Jonge, have been assisted to take on a challenge that previously would have been im­possible to attempt.

They received wheelchairs designed and produced by the Product Deve­lopment Technology Station (PDTS) at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, in Bloemfontein.

The immediate impact of this was that the pair could participate in the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route in Spain, an activity that requires lots of perseverance.

It almost seemed impossible to do the pilgrim’s walk in a wheelchair. But the two retired friends accomplished the mission, thanks to the unique wheelchairs. Du Toit was pushed for about 190 km to complete the route.

Schalk van der Merwe, who initia­ted the project, said fortunately the PDTS at CUT had already been working on a suitable concept.

Singer Mathys Roets, who is paralysed, had referred Du Toit and De Jonge to Van der Merwe, and indirectly PDTS, a product development company.

Van der Merwe said PDTS only had two weeks to provide the wheelchairs before their Camino journey, from 4 to 20 September. The route they followed (from León to Santiago de Com­postela) took about 13 days to complete and included a 90 km circular coastal route.

Du Toit said the wheelchairs were a perfect fit for the Camino challenge, adding that without this it would not have been possible.

“It gives you access to places where it would be impossible for an ordinary wheelchair to go,” said Du Toit, who has post-polio syndrome.

De Jonge suffers from Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease. De Jonge and Du Toit know each other from uni­versity and were neighbours for nearly 25 years in Middelburg, Mpumalanga.

Allan Kinnear, PDTS project engineer, said the product would be improved and Du Toit’s feedback incorporated.

“Our greater objective is to have a sustainable wheelchair that only needs a service every two years, and last a lifetime. The problem in South Africa isn’t wheelchairs, it is sustainable wheelchairs. Normal chairs break regularly.”

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