Do a barrel roll with this underwater wheelchair

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[Credit: Freewheeling/Norman Lomax/Rex Features]

Yes, that really is a wheelchair swimming around underwater. Crazy as it might seem, this submersible wheelchair can propel itself underwater and is maneuverable enough to pull off acrobatic maneuvers.

The underwater wheelchair is a DIY project created by Sue Austin with the help of several engineers and diving experts, and with funding from the UK Art Council. Austin, who has been wheelchair-bound since 1996, first came up with the idea after learning how to dive in 2005.

The current prototype, as spotted by Mashable, comes equipped with two dive propulsion vehicles located underneath the seat to provide thrust. A bespoke fin guides the chair through the water. Austin can also steer the wheelchair underwater using a foot-operated acrylic strip and, of course, a basic swim stroke using her arms. The chair has also has some simple swimming floats for buoyancy, as well as scuba gear to provide Austin with air.

You might be wondering why didn't she just get out of the chair and swim. Austin says that she wanted to change the perception that using a wheelchair is a restrictive part of her life.

To this end, Austin has started filming a series of videos that depict her underwater ballet along the ocean floor. This is just small part of the Freewheeling initiative that led up to her Paralympic performance at the Cultural Olympiad celebrations in London last week.

This story, "Do a barrel roll with this underwater wheelchair" was originally published by TechHive.

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