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Monthly Archives: October 2016

  • More Halloween Wheelchair tales

    Following on from the article last week on the wheelchair that was built for Ryan for Halloween we have been told about a fair few others who have made customised wheelchairs for this spooky week.

    Magic Wheelchairs is a web site run by an American couple who have 3 children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and there for have children’s wheelchairs and will remain in a chair for their adult life. The web site  has the strap line "PUTTING A SMILE ON THE FACE OF EVERY CHILD IN A WHEELCHAIR" and this is exactly what their dad would do each year for Halloween.

    Visit the magic wheelchair site here

    Each Halloween, Ryan made the biggest, “baddest” costumes he could for his sons, Keaton and Bryce, for many years. Once news of these costumes spread, Ryan began receiving requests from parents around the world asking if he would transform their kids’ wheelchairs into “magic”…and then, in 2015, Ryan and Lana decided to make that happen and started the non-profit organization that seeks to put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair.

    If you visit their web site you can see all kinds of fantastical wheelchair designs ranging from dinosaurs to fire engines. Each one is unique and built around a standard electric wheelchair or manual wheelchair with some that are very detailed and must have taken a great deal of time to get right. As they say on the site it is always worth it when you get to see the expression on the child’s face when the wheelchair id revealed for the first time.

    These days Magic Wheelchair is a nonprofit organisation and continues to make costumes for kids in wheelchairs and providing them for no charge to those in need. The aim  for them is to put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair by transforming their wheelchairs into awesomeness created by their hands and the children’s imaginations.

    To get some inspiration and to see how their story evolved take a look at this video where Magic Wheelchair Takes Flight on Kickstarter.

  • A Halloween makeover for this boys wheelchair

    Kids need to have fun and why should a wheelchair prevent any spooky fun at Halloween ? Although originally an American invention, Halloween has been adopted pretty convincingly here in the UK. Wheelchairs for children tend not to be quite as much fun, until now that is, dad Ryan Scott Miller has spent more than a few hours in the garden shed to enhance his sons wheelchair for Halloween by modeling it around the Ghostbusters film car Ecto-1

    I’m guessing that there must be another children’s wheelchair in the house as he must have spent hours converting the pediatric wheelchair in to this awesome invention that quite clearly has delighted his son Jeremy judging by the smile on his face.

    The wheelchair adapted 'car' is designed to resemble the Ecto-1 response vehicle in the classic movie that was re-released in July following the original which was in 1984. Building the car around a wheelchair has not stopped him and it includes many features like working headlights, siren lights, tail lights and speakers for Ghostbusters siren and theme music! The roof rack includes yellow canisters, green canister, blue tubes, ladder, red probe, siren light, two speakers (one for the Ghostbusters siren and one for theme music), satellite dish and whatever the white & red canister is from the Ecto-1."

    Can childrens wheelchairs be made a bit more fun ?

    Although it no longer resembles a pediatric wheelchair the converted model does look brilliant and must make both the dad happy and the child ecstatic as he parades the neighborhood looking for seasonal ghouls in the Ecto-1 Wheelchair. Many wheelchairs for children show very little flair and remain fairly utility biased. It would be good to see if some of the wheelchair manufacturers produce wheelchairs for children with a bit more sparkle in the way of brighter paint colours and some decals to make a normal pediatric wheelchair look a bit more appealing.

  • A new lease of life for NHS wheelchairs

    I read with interest this week that NHS wheelchairs that have been retired are about to get a new ease of life thanks to Her Majesty’s Prison service in Maghaberry in Northern Ireland which now has a wheelchair workshop.

    The NHS retires many wheelchairs each month deeming them obsolete for various reasons, many of which are fairly minor like stained or ripped upholstery. Most of the wheelchairs are fit for upcycling and are taken to Maghaberry where they receive whatever is needed to get them ready for a new lease of life in another country.

    Charities including Mediaid4kids, Bike Aid for Africa, Tell Romania and Faith in Action Missions all need wheelchairs for countries that are in conflict and do nothave enough mobility equipment to go around.

    Wheelchair workshop at Maghaberry

    The NHS tend to buy wheelchair models that are renowned for reliable low maintenance operation, however every wheelchair has its limits and too often they are treated roughly and not cared for by staff and patients who use them for short periods only. Both self propelled and transit wheelchairs are then retired and sent to the wheelchair workshop where prisoners are trained to carry out the maintenance. They work from a checklist to ensure they meet health and safety guidelines.

    A wheelchair is typically steam washed then stripped them back, rebuilt and fully restored with some even getting a new paint job ! Once signed off as fit for service the wheelchairs are packed and put in shipping containers ready to be transported to one of the foreign countries in need.

    In the wheelchair workshop up to a dozen prisoners use basic tools to carry out the maintenance.
    Governor Davis added: “There’s a lot of good work done by the prisoners in the wheelchair workshop. The work is both educational and therapeutic for prisoners and helps build on rehabilitation and preventing re-offending, which will ultimately help in the future to make our communities safer.

    “We’ve had quite a number of letters back from individuals and hospitals on the other side of the world and for staff and prisoners it makes them realise how much their work really is appreciated.”

    The work by prisoners in the wheelchair workshop is tremendous and has given hope to people in areas of the world where they believed there was none.

    During a recent trip to Libya I witnessed first-hand the real need for wheelchairs and walking aids.

    The people who receive them are very, very grateful and always ask me to pass on their gratitude to the Governor, prison staff and the men who have provided the wheelchairs for them.

    – Robert Jones, Chairman of Medaid4Kids

  • How to fix a wheelchair squeak

    So imagine having a squeaking shoe that you cannot take off ! this is what it’s like at times with my wheelchair only there are squeaks galore particularly when the weather is damp. A wheelchair is no different to any other simple mechanical device like a bicycle and does therefore need a basic level of maintenance to keep the wheels turning smoothly.

    A well maintained wheelchair should provide many years of reliable service and part of that servicing includes applying some lubricating oil or even better bike grease to the parts that move. Electric wheelchairs or powerchairs are no different although they do tend to have more components that require a bit of oil.

    So let’s look at the parts that may be squeaking on your wheelchair. These are typically:

    Wheelchair lubrication

    The first thing to do is to clean the offending parts thoroughly with a soft brush to remove any dust or debris that may be causing the wheelchair to squeak. It is sometime necessary to partially disassemble the offending part to do this properly, depending on which part it is. Once cleaned, check it for lubrication and if there is none evident then apply some oil or grease. It’s best not to go overboard at this point as an excess will attract more dust and cause the process to repeat.

    Once you have completed these two stages it’s time to reassemble the wheelchair and roll it round to see if the squeaking has ceased. It could be at this stage that you have cured one squeak and need to attend to others if the wheelchair continues to squeak. Take care when reassembling the wheelchair not to over tighten nuts or bolts as this can be the cause. In some cases, loosening of just half a turn will be enough to stop the noise.

    Having done some research online we have also found stories of folk who have located the sound and found it to be coming from the wheelchair tyres, although this is described more as a groan than a squeak. Often this has been cured by adding some pressure to the wheelchair tyre or in some cases replacing it when it was worn.

    Check the bearings on your wheelchair

    Bearings are also a common cause of a squeaking wheelchair and need to be checked for wear and tear and also for adequate lubrication, although this is more common on electric wheelchairs. Bearings are considered non-durable parts and therefore will require replacement after a certain amount of use.

    Finally, one persistent problem found by some users of self propelled wheelchairs is actually down to the spokes believe it or not. Although this type of noise on a wheelchair is often described as a groan rather than a squeak. If you feel that this could be the issue with your wheelchair then a trip to the local bike store is probably the best bet as they are experienced in trimming spoked wheels, which are much the same on a bike as a wheelchair. If this doesnt fix it we sell new spoked wheels for your self propelled wheelchair here

  • The perils of shopping alone by wheelchair

    Having recently posted about the wheelchair access difficulties experienced by Will Pike and the movie he has recently made we thought we would go a little further and publish an article along the same vein on the perils of shopping from a wheelchair when you are alone without an attendant.

    When the shops are quiet it is fairly challenging to get the shopping done from the wheelchair, starting from gaining access in to one or two of the smaller stores which are less wheelchair friendly than the main super markets. Once inside, the aisles can be restrictively narrow particularly when there are more than a few folk and passing people with shopping trolleys is sometimes hazardous especially when you are pushing your self along with hands on the rims!

    Products are rarely within reach of wheelchair users and sometimes so tightly packed in that pulling one item from the shelf without toppling the whole lot can be difficult. Not only are the items too high but also it is not always possible to get the wheelchair close enough to the shelves. I have on a few occasions seen one wheelchair user who has a powerchair that has a seat that rises and allows her to see most items at eye level which looks ideal. If this sounds good please see our offer on the Pride Jazzy Select 6 electric wheelchair here.

    Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, a professor of marketing at the Rutgers School of Business has studied consumers with disabilities since 1995 and has found that most consumer research failed to consider customers with mobility issues ­– such as those having to shop from a wheelchair – as well as people with hearing, vision and cognitive impairments. She states “There’s music and moving lights and large crowds and it’s just difficult to maneuver anywhere” referring to a recent trip by wheelchair to a local store. Many of the problems these shoppers face are unintended. Store design choices can seem like good practice, but in reality, there are problems with aisle width and display height. Overcrowding reduces access, comfort and mobility for wheelchair users.”

    Kaufman-Scarborough gave three guidelines that retail stores can implement to provide quick accessibility to disabled shoppers:

    • Post signs that offer assistance and ask for customers, who need help to explain what they need,

    • Train their employees to assist shoppers with disabilities to help,

    • Keep merchandise out of the aisles.

    Lambert offered other suggestions:

    • be courteous and assist other shoppers who might struggle in opening doors or having to stand in line,

    • Take in consideration that people in wheelchairs might need more room to maneuver,

    • Do not park in parking allocated for persons with disabilities unless you are a driver with disabilities or are in a vehicle that needs to deploy a ramp,

    • leave handicapped bathroom stalls open for the disabled.

    On the plus side, virtually all the supermarkets nearby do now offer trolleys that are designed for wheelchair users which does make the experience more bearable although they are considerably smaller than the normal trolleys making it difficult to carry many items meaning that another shopping trip by wheelchair is needed after a couple of days.

  • Are our high streets wheelchair friendly ?

    This week saw the release of a film by wheelchair user Will Pike who has also gathered over 47000 signatures on his petition to make our high streets more wheelchair friendly as here in the UK its deemed that the high streets are not as friendly as we would like to think they are.

    One of the key aspects which is raised is about peoples reaction to wheelchair users and their perception of life as a disabled citizen.

    'Yes i can' was recently coined as the slogan of the Paralympics where many disabled athletes including wheelchair users displayed super human efforts to overcome their disabilities and perform in some very competitive sports at a world class level. Will Pike decided to make the film to show how a trip to the shops can be tricky and that 'yes i can' is all very well but maybe not so simple and compare to a paralympic event itself !

    Visiting many places in his local high Street, Will encounters many difficulties as he tries to go about what should be simple everyday tasks. Starting with a visit to a coffee shop he encounters access problems as there are no wheelchair ramps, doorways are narrow and not wheelchair friendly and the all too often lack of disabled toilet facilities.

    The short film was reviewed on day time television with paralympian Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson, where they discussed the various obstacles faced every day by wheelchair users. Will has been a wheelchair user for 8 years and the baroness far longer and they discuss how things have improved over recent years and life is easier but how they both hoped that after the London games things would become even better both in terms of physical improvements to infrastructure but also mind shift improvements of the public’s reaction in general.

    Wills summary is that the mental shift towards the disabled has not improved quite as much as he had hoped and he talks about the reaction he gets from shop staff in general when he enquires about the wheelchair friendly facilities he would like to see. Will lost the use of his legs when he suffered a spinal injury during a terrorist attack in Mumbai 8 years ago. He discusses the acceptance of disability from society and compares life before his injury and after and the limits he faces on a daily basis.

    Disability rights legislation in the US is discussed and compared to the UK and its said that in general here in the UK we don't cater for wheelchair users quite as well. Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson focuses on the attitude of the public as being as important as the physical barriers faced by those using wheelchairs and suggests that once folks attitudes change and improve then the physical access improvements will follow.

    Following the release of the film many of the establishments that were featured have made statements and stated that they intend to improve facilities for wheelchair users as soon as is possible. Disabled toilets seem to be the most talked about subject and how wheelchair access to toilets needs to be improved drastically in most establishments and that overall attitudes need to improve firstly. We wish Will well with his film and let’s hope that the raising of awareness and the mind shift occurs very soon to make life easier for users of wheelchairs.

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