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UAE national rolls out world's first solar wheelchair

When UAE national Haidar Talib Erabeh invented what could be the world's first solar wheelchair, he was not thinking of profit or fame. His main concern was how to help the handicapped, for the man himself is disabled.

Dozens of curious people saw the wheelchair that was displayed at last week's World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. What attracted their attention were neither the seat nor the wheels but the massive panels hanging overhead and overshadowing the chair.

Some of them mistook the wing-like panels for a metal umbrella to be used for protection against the sun. As it turned out, the panel was to draw sunshine and power the machine as it was a solar wheelchair. "I have searched hundreds of websites to check if a solar wheelchair was in use somewhere else but I couldn't find any. This is the first solar wheelchair in the world," said Erabeh, a computer programmer.

"I designed and built this chair myself. I am not thinking about making money or drawing public attention but how to do something for the handicapped people in the UAE. I have tested this chair and it is working perfectly. I have made a trip on this chair from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi and it was a total success."

Erabeh said he had invented the chair in collaboration with the Masdar Technological Institute in Abu Dhabi and is now awaiting funding and sponsorship of the project. He has been involved in negotiations with Masdar and a Japanese company to produce the chair on a commercial basis.

The chair is equipped with four batteries that can keep it moving for six hours under cloudy skies. "Besides helping my fellow citizens, I also wanted to contribute to the UAE's efforts to protect the environment and save energy." Erabeh said he had always wanted to support the disabled in the UAE and thought about a solar wheelchair when he was watching a television programme about solar cars and aircraft. "Then I thought that if they can make cars and planes that are powered by the sun, why can't we make a solar wheelchair that will help the handicapped and at the same time save energy," he said.

"When it becomes available in the market, it will offer tremendous comfort and assistance to crippled people. They will no longer have to wait for hours to charge the batteries as the chair will just roll ahead once it is exposed to the sun. This is a highly feasible machine here as the UAE has clear skies most of the year รข€“ perhaps that's why they did not think about one in the West."

Erabeh said thousands of paralysed persons in the country would benefit from his chair once it is in market although he has no figures about their exact number. He said that according to the United Nations, around eight per cent of a country's population is disabled.

"Here in the UAE there is no official or accurate statistics about the number of handicapped people.? We also cannot rely on the UN because only around 20 per cent of the UAE's population are nationals."

Erabeh used the UAE's National Day on December 2 to unveil his solar wheelchair by making a 200-kilometre journey from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi.
Tony

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