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Monthly Archives: July 2016

  • Shortly before their departure to the games in Rio Jordanne Whiley and Dylan Alcott claimed their second British Open single titles apiece on the penultimate day of this year’s fifth Super Series event on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, with Whiley retaining the women’s singles crown and Alcott regaining the quad singles title at Nottingham Tennis Centre, with the smile on Jo's face in the photo saying it all. Her perfromance in the recently modified wheelchair was absolutely brilliant, demonstrating true athletism through out the game

    Ranked World Number four, Whiley raced into a 3-0 lead in the women’s singles final before the Dutch woman van Koot won three of the next four games to trail by just one game. However, Jordanne put together an impressive sequence of 8 games to wrap up a 63 60 victory and her second Super Series singles title a year on from landing her first in Nottingham.

    “It was tougher than the score line suggests. Three and love sounds like a beating but it was tough today,” said Whiley. “Aniek is a tough opponent because she has that big forehand and a solid backhand. Today I felt like I played really well, I used the court well and didn’t get over excited and start hitting big, I just placed the ball well and hit my spots.

    “I came here to make a mark and say to everyone that I’m a competitor for gold in Rio and I think I’ve done that by beating everyone and winning the title.”

    Dylan Alcott also performed outstandingly with 5 out of 5 in Super Series singles finals this season, the last four of those victories coming against world No. 2 Wagner. The Australian world No. 1 made a good start to their latest encounter and went on to record a 62 62 victory to claim his latest Super Series crown just two years on from winning his first in Nottingham.

    “Two years ago was my first big title, so that was a big milestone. Today was awesome, I played really well and it’s a good lead into Rio,” said Alcott. “I’ve had some really tough matches the last few weeks against a lot of the top guys. I had a massive scare in the semis against Lucas, so I was happy to get the win there and then played really well today.”

    With only a week to go before the games start in Rio i hope they are hanging on to some of their energy reserves for what must be the biggest games of their lives in wheelchair tennis.

  • A guide to selecting the right rollator

    This is a brief guide written to help with the selection of the right walking aid to help you maintain personal mobility. Please be aware that everyone's requirements differ and that you should base your decision on the user's particular needs and preferences and if needs be, or if you are in any doubt, you should seek advice from medical and care professionals.

    What is a rollator ?

    A rollator is a portable device that provides support for someone who can stand and walk independently but might be be a little unsteady on their own or who tires easily when walking unaided. This includes individuals with stiff and or weak joints, arthritis or any other condition that restricts movement. Rollators also come with a built in seat allowing the user to sit or take rest. Please check the maximum weight specification if it is to be used by a larger user to ensure the frame is strong enough to provide the support when seated.

    Lightweight rollators frames are generally made from aluminium which is lighter than the alternative steel frames but not as strong. As the user has to push the rollator, a lightweight model is often preferred.

    Rollators come in various designs and sizes and some are better suited for indoor use only whereas other models can be used inside or outdoors. Look at the wheel size to determine how well it will work outside where the ground can be uneven. A bigger wheel will cope with outdoor surfaces and will make turning and pushing the rollator easier.

    One key consideration is size. Most rollators have height adjustable handles that cater for most users within the typical height range of 5' to 6'. Some brands including Topro rollators produce their models in a range of sizes to ensure you get the best fit possible. The key here is to allow the user to walk as upright as possible to avoid stooping and the back ache that can result.

    The rollator frame width is also a factor in ensuring a stable and comfortable walking position and a seat that is adequate and comfortable. You want a frame that provides good all-round support that does not restrict movement. However, avoid a frame that is too wide as it will be uncomfortable for the user if their hands are too far apart.

    Rollator handles are an important consideration as they need to be comfortable and ideally ergonomically shaped made from easy grip material so the user feels comfortable and doesn't have to grip tight to feel secure even if the user has cold, stiff or wet hands.

    On board storage is all important whether the rollator is to be used inside out outside. Generally when used inside folk like to be able to move their essentials with them, like a newspaper, book or a phone. If they are to be used outside by users with greater mobility, then a storage area that will hold small shopping items are important. This type of storage is typically an under seat bag or a tray.

    Finally, most rollators fold so that they can be stowed for storage and transportation. You might want to look at the folded width if the space you have available is limited.

    Rollators are fitted with brakes that are operated by the hands from the handles which allow slowing and stopping to provide as much support as possible. Brakes are often the loop handle type that are easiest to use and require only a slight pressure to operate. This type of brake are favoured by folk with limited strength or arthritis in the hands.

    If you feel that you still want advice then please feel free to call us so that we can advise on the most suitable rollator for your needs.

  • Wheelchairs designed for the Paralympics

    We sell a wide range of wheelchairs for everyday use including transit models, self propelled wheelchairs models reclining wheelchairs and lots more to ensure there is a model to suit everyone depending on their disability and particular requirements. Sports wheelchairs are however a different ball game and are generally bespoke or custom made to fit the particular athlete and their sport.

    So with the Paralympics in Rio just around the corner we thought we would take a quick look at these and see exactly what is on offer for those involved in the various sporting disciplines.

    Racing wheelchairs are generally three wheeled models that are build for one thing and that is speed. Designed to literally fit the user these long wheelbase models are built using lightweight materials to give the athlete the best possible power to weight ration.

    In wheelchair rugby the key feature is of course strength as they need to withstand knocks and blows when they collide with their team players and opponents.

    Other key features that vary from sport to sport are the wheelchair rims, this is primarily because the muscles used in the different sports vary so the push rims do also. In racing the muscles used are all about pushing the wheelchair forward whereas in wheelchair basketball for example there is more focus on explosive power due to the frequent and rapid changes in direction in the game. This requires very strong back muscles and the ability to pull the rims to give the directional change.

    In a basketball chair, athletes sit higher than on a racing chair, thus are using a bigger push rim that can range from 60-68cm in diameter, compared to 35-39cm.

    The other significant difference on sporting wheelchairs for each discipline is the seating arrangement. Athletes who ave the least function in their lower body have more a bucket seat that gives greater stability and typically have higher backrests. This often depends on the point system used for grading athletes which is based on their lower body function.  These chairs used in basketball will often have 5 or 6 wheels to give greater stability and reduce their risk of tipping.

    Wheels will also vary and particularly the camber they are set up. Increased camber of up to 20 degrees gives the wheelchair greater ability to turn faster and are frequently used in both basket ball and tennis. In these sports the wheelbase is often wider again for the same reason.

    Racing chairs on the other hand have 10-15 degrees of camber, mostly for lateral stability, especially around turns. Athletes with greater body function will have reduced camber as they are more able to lean their body to affect the turn.

    Finally in the more contact prone sports the wheelchairs will often be fitted with bumpers of sorts to lessen the impact on the wheelchair frame when a collision occurs. Side panels or wings are also used for this reason and also to give the athlete better protection from injury.

    For more information of the wheelchairs available and what is used in which sports please visit the Paralympic web site

  • Wheelchair access to beach damaged again

    In May of this year access to the beach in Thorpe Esplanade, Thorpe Bay was improved due to the help of a £9,400 grant from the Gannet Foundation. The Beach Wheelchair Pathway was officially opened by Southend mayor Judy McMahon and representatives from the Tram Stop Shelter charity.

    Today a charity is pleading for some action to address the damage that is repeatedly being caused by vehicles and vandals. Many times since it was opened cars have used the pathway designed for use by wheelchairs to try to access the nearby beach. The cars generally get stuck at the bottom of the ram in the sand.

    The ramp is made using some special mats that give a wheelchair friendly route to the beach. However vandals have more than once ripped up the mats and on one occasion set fire to them rendering them useless. All incidents have been reported to the local police but still the ramp is inaccessible to wheelchair users.

    Discussing the ‘traumatic’ incident on Sunday afternoon, Mr Craven, 69, of Marcus Chase, Thorpe Bay, said: “A car had driven down the ramp beside the beach pathway and was stuck in the sand. “I got there just in time to stop three guys lifting up parts of the pathway to place under the car tyres to assist in getting it off the sand.

    “They then went to other parts of the pathway to use mats that had been previously damaged. I stopped them again.

    “A young woman shouted abuse at me.

    “I told her that the charity I headed was the owners of the pathway and that they would be causing damage to our property.

    “Two hours later the car was, eventually, removed by a friendly four by four driver from the large crowd that had gathered.”

    There is now a campaign to have a gate placed at the top of the ramp to stop any further damage and to discourage more car drivers from causing problems. The problem here is that the gate would then needed to be unlocked by the wheelchair users to gain access.

    “From witnesses this is a regular occurrence.

    “What was really worrying is that at the time the car was spinning its wheels there was an elderly person in a wheelchair on the beach pathway who was sprayed with sand!

    “A lockable barrier will protect our visitors and our property.”

    A council spokesman, said: “We are happy to consider any requests for a barrier, gate or something similar.”

  • Electric wheelchair maintenance guide

    If you rely on your powerchair for everyday mobility it is of course essential that it provides you with utmost reliability. The best way to achieve this is by having a maintenance schedule that makes sure that all aspects of the chair are kept in premium condition.

    This doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect nor does it need to take a great deal of time but as your electric wheelchair is your lifeline to independence it is time well spent.

    Most electric wheelchair manufacturers provide adequate instruction on what to carry out and when but not all owners hang on to this information so we felt it was a good idea to present a brief guide here.

    Daily checks are essential for peace of mind and trouble free operation. This is as simple as looking over the powerchair for any obvious damage, particularly to wheels and or tyres. With your hand check that all visible nuts or bolts are tight. Keep your eye out for any loose electrical wiring that may have become detached near the lights, the joystick or around the battery area. While you do this check also make sure that none of the wiring is in danger of trapping near the moving parts such as the wheels. While doing this also keep your eyes open for any stripped wire where the sleeve has been worn. If you find this you will need to contact an electric wheelchair specialist for a repair.

    Battery charging is a very important function to ensure reliable operation. Regular charging is key to this and the modern day batteries do not suffer if they are charged at a mid charge point. There is no need to drain them before charging and in some cases to drain the wheelchair battery entirely can cause damage to the cell. We always advise that the best way to charge is to do it every night while you sleep then you can have confidence the next day when out and about.

    Tyres should be part of the daily inspection but every week or so it is worth spending a bit of time to do a more thorough inspection. The things to look for are tread wear, cracks and splits to the tyre face and wall. Secondly tyre pressure is important both to the comfort of the ride but also for the endurance of the tyre. A partially deflated tyre is far more likely to let you down so make sure you keep them at the right pressure by using a gauge and a pump. Wheel alignment is one issue that can cause tyre wear. It is worth checking this every 90 days or so or sooner if you can see uneven wear on one side of the wheelchair tyre.

    Finally we do advise that you keep your electric wheelchair clean. When clean it is far easier to see any potential problem areas as above. Once cleaned it is a good time to apply some lubrication to the parts stipulated by the power chair manufacturer. We advise a good all-purpose silicone based lubricant which also comes in spray type canisters. Use it sparingly and regularly or you will find that it can attract dirt and dust and cause problems rather than allay them.

    We hope these tips are useful and help to extend the life of your electric wheelchair.

  • Reinventing the wheel

    We recently saw a very unusual wheelchair online whilst researching new products with a view to increasing our inventory of wheelchair accessories. Why did the model we saw catch our eye ? it was the wheels, which looked like no other wheelchair wheels we have seen.

    Known as loop wheels, they are significantly different to the traditional spoked or mag models and instead have three loops of highly flexible composite attaching the central hub with the outer rim.

    Designed to 'help you push over uneven streets, cobbles, grass, rough tracks and gravel paths, with less effort' as they say on their web site, they refer to the loops as composite springs. There are videos to be seen which are impresive and show just how much suspension effect they provide when the wheelchair drops off a kerb stone or moves over cobbles. As well as effective suspension they offer vibration absorption also, helping to improve the ride of any self propelled or manual wheelchair.

    Although these wheels are available they are in their early days having only started production last year in 2015. Made in Nottinghamshire in the UK, these wheels are available for a number of different applications including bicycles, mountain bikes and of course wheelchairs.

    We will be looking in to selling these in the near future but in the meanwhile if you want to learn more then please visit the loopwheels web site to see how they may improve your indenpendance in your wheelchair.

  • Barcelona wheelchair road racer

    Mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs have been getting a bit quicker over the years thanks to new technology in both electric motors and the batteries that power them. It seems in this day and age of rushing around everyone wants to get to their next destination quicker, whether it's to work on a commute, the shops or even to the gym. It doesn't seem to matter how you travel whether its by car, bike, or even mobility scooter or electric wheelchair, folk just want to go fast !

    Some models are getting quicker, large scooters are classified as Class 3 products by the Department for Transport and are meant to be limited to 8mph, some powerchairs will do 6mph but the person in this video is clearly doing speeds well in excess of this and is on a busy main road at the time !

    Police in Bareclona are a bit baffled by this display of reckless driving but as they say no offense is being committed by the user of the wheelchair as he swerves in and out of traffic dodging cars on the way. All filmed by a motorbike that follows the speeding wheelchair!

  • Posture and wheelchairs

    For those of you who spend time in a wheelchair it will come as no surprise that posture and comfort are closely linked and are all important. In essence, posture is all about the alignment of your body and is equally important for abled folk as it is for those who use a wheelchair regularly. And, whether it is a self propelled or a transit model the principal remains the same.

    So what is good posture ?

    Starting from the top of your body we begin with the head, which should ideally be kept balanced centrally over your shoulders. Tendency to tilt to one side for prolonged periods can cause problems. Moving further down the body, the shoulders should be tilted back a little behind the hips helping the spine to maintain its intended S shape. This is not so easy to achieve in all wheelchairs and often as not some support in the form of a well placed cushion is required to assist with this. The cushion will need to be re-positioned and reshaped if necessary throughout the day

    If you are not able to set your wheelchair up to attain good posture you can experience discomfort and aching and in some situations eve poor breathing. If you lean forward in the wheelchair it can lead to slight compression of the diaphragm which will affect the efficiency of your breathing. In turn, muscles that should be in use can become atrophied leading to the shortening of tendons and ligaments which will over time make the problem worse.

    Moving down to your legs, we all know how easy it is to get pins and needles and poor circulation if your legs are positioned badly, so keeping them parallel and setting the foot plates correctly so that your feet are flat is very important to avoid numbness in the feet. If you can achieve right angles between your spine and your legs, your upper legs and lower legs and lower legs and feet you  will feel the most comfortable and reduce the risk of muscle atrophy.

    So what do i need to look for in a wheelchair ?

    The more time you spend in your chair, the more important it is to address comfort and posture and to ensure you have suitable model. Ergonomic pressure systems like the ones in some of the Karma range of wheelchairs are ideal. This systems aims to reduce slumping or sliding in the wheelchair and give added back support. Some models have shaped seats which again help you to remain upright and prevent sliding down in the chair. Sitting as far back in the seat as possible will help you to achieve the upright position that you need. If you need a more comfy cushion please see our range here.

    We hope these tips are useful. If you have specific requirements then please seek advice from your OT and if you have any other questions please don't hesitate to call us and we will help in any way we can.

  • Wheelchair bound protestors take to the bridges in Bolivia

    In Bolivia in South America disabled folk have found a new way to get themselves heard in protest by dangling from bridges in their wheelchairs. They argue that the government is failing to listen to their demands all of which are aimed at increasing awareness of the needs of the disabled and their low level of benefits.

    This recent protest is certainly getting them seen as some of the bridges are over busy main roads. Essentially the campaigners are asking for higher state subsidies to help them get by in their everyday lives. The subsidy is currently set at just 500 bolivianos a month ($73; £50) which doesn't go far enough to get the assistance that they need.

    Protesters have tried to protest against the president when he visited earlier this month but were forced back by the police with force, even using water canons at one stage to push back protestors. 900,000 dollars are allocated each year for the disabled, half of which is paid out in monthly allowances and the rest goes towards funding of projects, although the protestors insist that they are not seeing the benefit of these projects.

    Instead they are wanting a five fold increase in their disability benefits but the government of leftist President Evo Morales has, so far rejected their demands.

    Bolivia is one of Latin America's poorest countries and with some 388,000 people with disability, according to official figures, not somewhere you would want to be if you are a wheelchair user. As for dangling from bridges to prove your point, this seems a little extreme. We wish them well in their battle for improved conditions.

  • Airlines continue to handle damaged wheelchair payouts badly

    BA and a number of other airlines have been criticised for their treatment of disabled passengers and damage to their wheelchairs. It seems to stem from one particular incident where female actor Athena Stevens who commenced legal action against BA after alleged damage to her wheelchair.

    Now the equality watchdog is involved and Chris Holmes, the disability commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a highly successful Paralympic athlete. This particular incident occurred when Athena was making a trip for work to Glasgow flying out of London City airport with BA when her wheelchair was damaged. The chair is said to have a value of £25,000 but was not insured so she is wanting compensation from either BA or the City Airport itself.

    However it's understood neither the airline nor the airport have admitted liability for the damage although BA have stated to the Guardian newspaper they they are looking to resolve things with Mrs Stevens. BA went on to state that they do cater for the needs of the disabled and treat their needs very seriously.

    During the enquiry, Mr Holmes has questioned BA, the official airline of both Team GB for the Olympics and the national Paralympic team in Rio de Janeiro this summer, whether they would treat athletes in the same way as they did other disabled customers. He also pointed out that many disabled folk are reluctant to fly for these reasons, knowing that they and their wheelchairs may not be looked after in the way they would like to see.

    In the case of Athena Stevens, Holmes pointed out “She has been left without a replacement chair for eight months. We’re not talking about a suitcase or a set of golf clubs – this is a person’s mobility and independence.

    “Considering that BA is a main sponsor of Team GB, I think it’s fair to ask whether this practice would equally apply to competing athletes, and if so, whether the Paralympic team been made aware that British Airways will not cover the full cost if their equipment is damaged.”

    In the meanwhile, The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority publicly warns people with disabilities that amounts paid for damaged equipment “may be limited to around £1,300” which clearly doesn't cover many manual and all electric wheelchairs.

    In defense BA stated “More than 426,000 people with reduced mobility traveled with us last year and we take their needs extremely seriously.

    “We always take great care when transporting wheelchairs. However, there are rare occasions when damage occurs,” the airline said.

    “In those circumstances when we are responsible, we pay compensation to the value of the damage caused over and above the limits of the Montreal agreement.

    “We are speaking with Ms Stevens and her legal representatives to reach a suitable resolution.”
    London City airport said: “We have been in communication with Ms Stevens from the outset and the airport has made every effort to assist her in resolving this situation. We are awaiting a response. Because this is a legal matter we are unable to provide further comment.”

    The British Paralympic Association said: “We’re pleased that BA have made the commitment to Paralympics GB and are confident they are making great plans to ensure our Paralympic athletes are given a world class service.”

    “Considering that BA is a main sponsor of Team GB, I think it’s fair to ask whether this practice would equally apply to competing athletes, and if so, whether the Paralympic team been made aware that British Airways will not cover the full cost if their equipment is damaged.”

    Lets hope this case in point brings some realistic review of the legislation and that it is resolved satisfactorily and Mrs Stevens has a replacement wheelchair very soon.

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