by Judy Brown
It is common to see wheelchairs of different sizes, colors, and styles around Riderwood. Some are being pushed by caregivers, but most are independently driven power wheelchairs. They offer extraordinary freedom and allow the owners to get around quite freely. But what would it be like for those who can’t walk independently and don’t have access to wheelchairs?
According to the World Health Organization, 70 + million people worldwide are leg disabled due to birth defects, disease and landmines. Without the help of a wheelchair, they suffer greatly. Thankfully, there is a device called PET, which is a rugged, three wheeled, hand powered cart that is given free of charge to people in developing countries.
PET stands for Personal Energy Transportation and it was first developed in the late 1990s in response to a need identified by Methodist missionaries in Africa. The carts are built in 23 production sites in the United States and are distributed overseas.
To date, 30,000 PETs have been built and distributed. The design of a PET is practical and uses bicycle parts commonly available in third world countries and a sturdy solid rubber tire. The devices are hand-cranked and are made in child and adult sizes. PETs move someone about the speed of a fast walk.
Members of the Riderwood Circle Fellowship recently drove a PET around the Maryland Room at Montgomery Station and marveled at the cleverness and practicality of the design. It provided a first-hand experience of a project that they have supported for five years.