Czech engineers want to expand production of 'Elbee', their vehicle designed for disabled persons in wheelchairs to increase their mobility and maximise their independence. Elly Park reports.
STORY: Sixty-seven-year-old Frantisek Trunda thought he would never drive again when both his legs were amputated eight years ago. But thanks to Elbee, a new vehicle made for the disabled, he's back on the road. It took Czech manufacturer, the Light Construction Factory, 10 years to perfect the design, but project manager Ladislav Brazdil says the hard work has been worthwhile. (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) PROJECT MANAGER LADISLAV BRAZDIL SAYING: "Elbee is a unique car designed for disabled people in wheel chairs. The main advantage of Elbee is that disabled people do not have to change from their wheelchair to the driver's seat." That's because with Elbee, drivers can now simply roll into their seat using a double ramp. The chair clicks into place, and by just using their hands they can drive the car that can reach speeds of 80 kilometres per hour. The car's compact size allows it to be parked in tight spaces vertically, so that drivers have direct access to pedestrian walkways. It's been designed entirely from scratch - no easy task according to design engineer Josef Franc. (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) DESIGN ENGINEER JOSEF FRANC SAYING: "This is all special because whatever you see is something new. The worse thing was that we didn't have anything to look at for inspiration. We had to develop and construct everything ourselves and then have it approved by officials." But their efforts are appreciated by drivers like Frantisek Trunda who says that Elbee has changed his life. (SOUNDBITE) (Czech) FRANTISEK TRUNDA SAYING: "I am satisfied with it because you get something like a new independence or freedom. See - eight years ago I had to ask my wife or son to bring me here or there. Now I can sit in my car by myself." Anyone with a valid driver's license can drive an Elbee, which costs 400,000 Czech Crowns - or 19,000 US dollars. And while it isn't cheap, it's a price worth paying for increased mobility and independence.