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Ivaylo Kolev has invented wheelchair allowing disabled people to climb mountain peaks

People in wheelchairs experience the hostility of Bulgarian urban environment on a daily basis as they need to negotiate huge sidewalks, inaccessible thresholds of public buildings and shops, or inadequately built ramps. But most of all, people with disabilities need to deal with the heartlessness of others who have the power to change the urban environment and work for the inclusion of all citizens. Meanwhile, a Bulgarian has given new hope to these people with his new invention.

Ivaylo Kolev's electric wheelchair easily overcomes the extreme conditions of the city and can climb mountain peaks. The unit moves on two wheels, balanced by a gyroscope, and is powered by batteries with the charge lasting about eight hours.

“Movement back and forth is done by tilting the body, which is a kind of rehabilitation, and a wheel is used for turning left or right,” the inventor says. “In most wheelchairs people are just sitting and not doing anything, but here one needs to make body movements in order for the wheelchair to function. These movements strengthen spinal muscles, but of course that depends on the injuries. Another goal for our team was to design the chair in such a way that people in it are closer to the eye level of a standing person, so that they felt equal.”

Years ago, Ivaylo Kolev saw a training session of the wheelchair basketball team and met people with strong physics and even stronger spirit. Seeing how difficult getting in and out of the sports hall was, Mr. Kolev decided to devote himself to a cause that took him nearly three years but has been crowned with success - the world's first wheelchair that easily negotiates obstacles in the city is now a fact.

Vlady Gyurov, who had become paralyzed after a road accident, has recently climbed Vitosha’s summit Cherni Vrah independently, using one of these wheelchairs. This is a worldwide achievement because no human has ever been able to reach such an altitude alone using a wheelchair. The achievement also gives hope to many people looking to improve their quality of life. However, in order for this to happen, assistance is needed – both for production and for people in need, so they are able to afford it.

“Each time we have tried to work with state institutions, we encounter problems,” Ivaylo Kolev says. “Next year we will be ready with the pricing and would see whether the state would like to help these people in any way. Unfortunately, it has not been helping them lately, but we will do what we can to make their lives at least a little bit better. We are carrying out daily tests of the wheelchair and absolutely every person who has contacted us has tried it for free with our team bringing them the wheelchair, providing training and then taking people for a hike to Vitosha or in the park. Our idea is to produce a few chairs and provide them to people in need. Thus, even if they are not able to buy them, they will still be able to go out, hike in the mountains or wherever they want.”

The invention would help people with disabilities come out of the forced isolation city obstacles create.

“In general, the wheelchair goes down stairs quite adequately and overcomes obstacles of a certain height,” Ivaylo Kolev says. “But we cannot say that it crosses all the doorsteps of stores, because in many cases, the actual doors are not adapted to this type of vehicles. It is extremely difficult for people with disabilities and we can firmly say that Sofia is absolutely inaccessible – even in places where ramps exist, they often lead to nowhere.”

Despite great interest shown from abroad, Ivaylo Kolev will try to start production in Bulgaria as disabled people in this country are in great need of mobility that would bring them closer to all of us.

Text: Radio Bulgaria

Photos: IMobility

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