New All-Terrain Wheelchair Lets Users Hit The Trails Once Again

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<p>(Courtesy of GRIT)</p>
<p>Tricia Downing on the Freedom Chair in her backyard in Denver. </p>

Editor's note: This story originally aired Jan. 24, 2017.

A wheelchair athlete from Denver can once again tackle Colorado's hiking trails. Tricia Downing has relied on a wheelchair since she was injured in 2000 while training on her bicycle.

Downing's among a small group of wheelchair users utilizing the Freedom Chair. It was the brainchild of MIT students who wanted to design a way for people in wheelchairs to hike on rough terrain. The group also developed a chair to make it easier for people living in third-world countries to navigate unpaved areas.Photo: Tricia Downing Freedom Chair

They eventually started a company called Global Research Innovation and Technology, or GRIT, which makes the chairs; recently, it donated one to Downing.

The Freedom Chair isn't the only all-terrain wheelchair on the market, but it's the only one made up of bicycle parts to make it easier to replace equipment and its $3000 price tag is cheaper than many of the others being sold.

Downing, who's competed in marathons and triathalons -- including an Ironman triathalon -- uses other specially-designed wheelchairs for races, but she says the new chair is the first to allow her to hike the trails of Colorado with her husband.

Tricia Downing spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel.