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  • The Rodem electric wheelchair from Japanese makers Tmsuk

    Every so often we here of a new take on the traditional wheelchair design and generally speaking a single proto type is built and tested and the new fangled wheelchair design goes no further.

    Now over to Japan, the home of innovative invention, where a new wheelchair concept has been developed which makes it far different to the traditional wheelchair that we see in various guises today.

    What makes this new design altogether different is the seating position which requires the user to sit on it rather than in it and the rider adopts a position more like you would when riding a bicycle or a horse with one leg either side of the main body.

    At first glimpse, this wheelchair design looks very strange but when you look in to the reasoning then it becomes clearer why this new style may be of benefit to some wheelchair users.

    Japanese manufacturer Tmsuk has come up with the Rodem model, which puts the users in a higher forward mounted position and as Tmsuk claim makes it easier for a user to get on and off the wheelchair without the help of a carer.

    Firstly we should point out that this is a powerchair or an electric wheelchair. Secondly we can announce that it will be available to a lucky few in the UK this year - 2018.

    Having been in development since 2009, Tmsuks Rodem wheelchair has come a long way and is now ready for some real action. The makers claim that many everyday tasks are made so much easier by way of the users position on the wheelchair.

    From brushing your teeth to eating at a table the Rodem attempts to make the experience easier by allowing the users body to be nearer the front of the wheelchair, thus nearer to the job at hand. Its seat is height adjustable allowing you to size uo to the job at hand with ease. The wheelbase of the Rodem is short, making turning in tight places far easier than other powerchairs.

    Tmsuk’s Rodem mobility robot as it is sometimes referred to is already available in Japan and is gaining interest fast. At a cost of about 900,000 YEN or £6000 it is not cheap but does come with some very flash looks and will be available in the UK in a choice of 6 colours. Being Japanese and electric it also comes with a host of techno trickery including the ability to park it and call it back remotely from your smartphone !

    Once the Rodem wheelchair has arrived in front of you the long sweeping handles allow you to reach forward to pull yourself on to the long saddle style seat. Once seated, you can then adjust your seat height to suit the next task at hand, raising or lowering it to allow you to be best suited to the job at hand. Then using a joystick controller you can move the Rodem wheelchair with ease much like controlling any other powerchair.

    The seat can also be tilted forward, again to ensure that you are in the right position to make things easier. This also allows you to get closer to what you are doing without having to lean forward or cause discomfort.

    When it comes to transferring  yourself out of the wheelchair, again the handles are long and positioned to allow you to transfer yourself with ease. We know that this will not suit all wheelchair users and that levels of mobility vary enormously. But we can see some clear merits in its design and hope that it provides some benefits to users who decide to take up the Tmsuks Rodem electric wheelchair.

  • Apples new App for wheelchair users

    For many folk simply getting by each day in a wheelchair is hard enough but for some who are keen on their fitness then this may be of interest as Apple have released an app for their I Phones that helps wheelchair users to track and improve on their fitness levels.

    There are some younger wheelchair users who are keen on fitness and do not let their disability, permanent or temporary, to get in their way or to stop them from working on their fitness levels.

    The Apple workout App has been developed for wheelchair users and allows them to set goals as you do with many other fitness Apps and also track movement accurately. This includes specific routines of exercise and allows wheelchair users to set the app based on both time calories and distance travelled.

    For more information why not visit the Apple accessibility site here

    There are two modes to this App, one for indoor use and one for outdoor wheelchair use. The App works with the new Apple watches in conjunction with I Phones. The App goes on to help with other disabilities including Vision impairment and those with hearing disabilities. These features include having texts read for you and opting to receive notifications by vibration rather than audible bleeps.

    Back to the benefits for wheelchair users, the App offers a daily snapshot of daily activity and monitors Roll, Exercise, and Move and actively encourages to make improvements in each of these areas. Instead of a static goal, the App encourages wheelchair users to roll or stretch each hour. When it comes to propelling yourself in the wheelchair it measures 'push' and takes account of changes to types of surface, any inclines, and transition moments where transfers to and from the wheelchair to a desk or car are also monitored.

  • Let me on the train with my wheelchair

    Good old Baroness Grey-Thompson, or Tanni as she is better known, doesn’t have the best of luck when it comes to wheelchair travel on public transport. This time in the run up to Christmas Tanni was going about her day as per normal in her wheelchair when she needed to get on the train run by Virgin but was stopped by a passenger already on the train.

    Tanni, who uses trains frequently in her wheelchair was trying to board the train when she was abruptly barred because she was in a wheelchair and that there was 'no room for her' even though everyone else on the platform managed to get on to the same train.

    Two days before Christmas you have to wonder whatever happened to festive spirit and goodwill to all men but sure enough Baroness Grey-Thompson was left on the platform rather displeased and still in her wheelchair but going nowhere. Instead the Paralympian wheelchair racer who also is a parliamentarian and a television presenter simply kept her calm and tweeted “Merry Christmas to the person on the train who just stopped me getting on"

    In a number of tweets that followed she explained that she was shocked beyond belief at the attitude of the passenger who effectively who blocked her from boarding the carriage.

    So for those of you who also travel on Virgin below is the information on their policy for wheelchair users including a help line number:

    Telephone:

    08000 158 123 or Textphone 08000 158 124

    Policy:

    Length: 1200mm (3ft 11in approx)

    Width: 700mm (2ft 3in approx)

    So, there is no excuse now for anyone not to be a little more helpful towards wheelchair users on public transport. With Tani’s wheelchair racing back ground the fact is she could probably have got to her destination quicker in her racing wheelchair !

  • Wheelchair accessible vehicles - the basics

    Like many we use a normal estate car to go about our daily routines and when needs be a wheelchair can be put in the boot with ease and it is no great inconvenience. Others who are less independent and who are both wheelchair users and drivers may well be fortunate enough to have a wheelchair accessible car that has been adapted to provide for those disabilities and to cater for the wheelchair with ease. Most of these vehicles server a valuable job and do so with ease, so what makes these vehicles so special and is there and formal approval required ?

    In a world where there are stats for everything we do, it seems that there are no official statistics or records when it comes to safety of those in wheelchairs when travelling in wheelchairs. But when it comes to adapting a wheelchair accessible vehicle there are many regulations in place to ensure that they comply to some fairly strict rules.

    Some of these rules are inherited via the EC and this includes the European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval or ECWVTA as it is referred to and these tests ensure that WAVs are compliant and that their wheelchair passengers are safe.

    Most wheelchair accessible vehicles on the UK roads are adapted versions of standard cars that are available to the UK market. The adaptation process is quite involved and generally includes both the passenger compartment aspect and the accessibility aspect i.e. the ramp on which the wheelchair travels to enter the vehicle.

    For more information you can visit the here http://www.wavca.co.uk the trade association for manufacturers of wheelchair accessible vehicles

    When a WAV manufacturer adapts a new model then there are several stringent tests that have to be satisfied before it is deemed safe for use with occupants in a wheelchair. These include physical tests on the seatbelt anchorage points, testing of the seat strength and more testing of the wheelchair restraint systems that literally keep the wheelchair in place during a journey and in worse scenario in an impact from a collision. To ensure fair governance, these tests are always carried out at an approved testing facility and independently witnessed by the government’s vehicle certification agency.

    These tests are essential and give you the wheelchair user the peace of mind and confidence needed to use a specially adapted vehicle. Once a new vehicle model has been approved there is a follow-up process called COP or Conformity of Production that is in place to ensure that all other wheelchair adapted models of the same type continue to meet the stringent standards laid out.

    So once such a vehicle has been designed and created we can be confident that it meets certain criteria required for safe use by a wheelchair user which include good access by wheelchair, safe transit of the user which includes structural integrity of the entire vehicle making sure that all occupants are as safe as they would be in a non-adapted car.

    This compliance is referred to by its code which is PAS2012 and includes all the WAV Industry Guidelines Adopted by Motability. These need to be in place in the following situations:

    • You are a wheelchair user who needs to travel in your chair
    • You are a local authority, health service or care home, which provides transport for wheelchair users
    • You are a taxi company or community transport service
    • You are an organisation which provides information to people with mobility difficulties
  • Festive flights and wheelchairs

    With the festive season coming up many of us will be making trips to see family and friends across the UK and further afield overseas. If you are a wheelchair user and are traveling this Christmas then now is a good time to start to plan your journey and inform the airline of your plans to travel with your wheelchair or powerchair.

    Not all of us need extra help to get to and from flights but sometimes it is comforting to request the assistance in case you need it on the day. For others less fortunate a trip or fall before the flight might mean that you require wheelchair assistance but have not been able to give the airport and airline sufficient notice about your need for wheelchair assistance.

    With airports getting bigger the distance for the entrance to the terminal and the departure gate can sometimes be hundreds of meters which mean that wheelchair users are more likely to require help to get to their gate on time. This is particularly the case when gate openings are announced late due to delays with the airline. Once at the gate further assistance will be needed to get you to your seat and the wheelchair stowed in a suitable way.

    If you need to arrange connecting flights then the challenge is greater when you are a wheelchair user. If you have arranged assistance then your wheelchair should be ready for you when your flight lands. Each time you need to check in please give yourself adequate time as you may need to wait for the wheelchair attendant to arrive to help you particularly during peak travel times like Christmas.

    If you do require a wheelchair attendant it is helpful if you let them know what you can and cannot do before you get to the security screening area. If you can stand and walk it will be a different process than if you need to go thru security seated in your wheelchair as pat down screening can take a while longer.

    Are you taking your own wheelchair ?

    Assuming you are traveling with your own wheelchair then having a disassembly plan is important. Some of us rarely take their wheelchairs apart so waiting until you are under pressure to do it swiftly might not be the best plan.

    Once you reach your destination airport in theory your wheelchair attendant should be ready and waiting to assist. Generally, he or she will offer to take you to the baggage claim area in the airport. If you need to stop and use the facility then this is a good opportunity depending on the duration of your remaining travel plans.

    If you are using the train or other public service travel then we will be posting on this soon.

    We wish you well with any travels this Christmas and hope that you and your wheelchair, manual or electric reach your destination in a timely and comfortable manner !

  • New tech for electric wheelchairs

    Electric wheelchairs have come a long way in the last 5 years with new developments in both battery technology and in control technology. These improvements are making powerchairs or electric wheelchairs far more user friendly and allowing their users the level of independence that they have wanted for some time.

    Gone are the days when your electric wheelchair would only have a range of 5 miles and would crawl along with that nagging suspicion that it was about to run out of juice. Today's wheelchair batter technology means that ranges of many power chairs exceed 15 miles while their cruising speed is a very healthy 4 mph.

    Electric wheelchairs are designed to be used both inside the home and work space but also outside making every day journeys too. It is this crossover which has often lead to problems when it comes to controlling the wheelchair.

    Most manufacturers opted for a joystick controller to allow the users to control direction of the powerchair. Over time these controllers became more advanced making electric wheelchairs easier to control and more manuvrable.

    Programmable controllers were the next progression and these allowed the wheelchair to be semi intelligent and change the reaction of the joystick controller in relation to the speed and direction of the powerchair. This improvement meant that a chair could only be manoeuvred within the safe limits of its directional speed. This stopped problems when an electric wheelchair was turned too abruptly at speed which lead to a lack of stability.

    Recent developments by some manufacturers have gone one step further in making their electric wheelchair models more user friendly and safe using three new technologies; touchscreen, Bluetooth and wireless.

    Inspired by healthcare professionals and wheelchair users alike the improvements have made some significant changes to the lives of many wheelchair users. These new technologies allow the wheelchair to effectively learn and adapt to driver habits over time to give a more consistent performance during the lifetime of the powerchair.

    Other improvements include better reporting so that users can see the health status of a powerchair including its battery status and potential range with ease by looking at their smartphone. Bluetooth pairing of the wheelchair to a smartphone also provides other benefits including the ability to remotely park the wheelchair when it is not in use. When it is needed once again the user can 'call; for the wheelchair and it will pull up alongside ready for the transfer.

    Other enhancements come in the form of motor control technology which ensue that the range of the electric wheelchair is maximised by efficient use of the wheelchairs motors. With all of this in mind the powerchair experience is set to improve dramatically in the very near future.

  • Billy's shoes for wheelchair users

    One of the more common ailments suffered by wheelchair users is the discomfort that can be suffered in the feet. For many folk you wouldn't expect being in a wheelchair would have an adverse effect on the users feet but it is a real problem and generally stems from badly fitting shoes that can impede proper circulation and discomfort.

    When you are in a wheelchair your feet remain stationary effectively for many hours and as a result the achilles area and ankles are prone to discomfort. It is these areas that are typically pinch points where the back of the shoe interferes with the wheelchair users feet. The other issue faced is of course getting the footwear on and off while in your wheelchair and there is no easy fix for this.

    Apart from reaching down to your feet being virtually impossible for many wheelchair users, actually tying a shoelace is also a problem for many with disabilities as they do not have the dexterity required.

    So along comes a wheelchair user with a solution who runs with the name of Billy Footwear ! Billy, a quad, started a venture with his friend back in 2015 to address exactly this and has come up with some revolutionary ideas to overcome the problem faced by too many wheelchair users.

    The key concept to Billy's invention is the use of zippers as shoe fasteners. For many wheelchair users the daily shoe routine is a hassle and not one that can be overcome despite learning all the independent living skills anyone has to offer. As a result the shoes look great and similar to any shoes unless you look closely to see the zip that runs along the top and side of the shoes. Laces are retained for cosmetic appearance only so you get the looks but not the hassle !

    Between Billy and his business partner Darin Donaldson, both of whom are wheelchair users they now have a range of shoes from sneakers to high-top shoes and cover men’s, women’s and children’s designs. These adaptive shoes are proving really popular with those who have used them and are attracting fantastic reviews by most. They are now for sale at Nordstrom and Zappos.com who have started a fresh range known as Zappos Adaptive, which covers adaptive clothing for those with disabilities and has many things that will improve independence and ease of life for those in wheelchairs.

    If you are a wheelchair user who might benefit from trying these shoes then why not click here !

  • What a brilliant idea someone had to start a holiday destination site for wheelchair users. Just like AirBnB, Accomable sets out to make accessible accommodation available to all users of wheelchairs so that they too can book a self-catering style break knowing that the usual challenges faced by wheelchair users are all under control.

    Typical mobility issues faced by wheelchair users are things like steps and stairs, beds that are either too high or too low, door ways that are too narrow, and lack of accessible bathrooms and toilets. Even when you book a wheelchair accessible hotel room you can still come unstuck with surprises that make your stay less than ideal.

    So it was really good to see that someone's bright idea might make things more doable for users of wheelchairs. That particular someone is Srin Madipalli, a former London solicitor who has spinal muscular atrophy and is hoping to change things for anyone with a physical disability so that they too can find and book accessible holiday accommodation.

    “I’ve always loved to travel but found the logistics of planning a trip with a wheelchair incredibly difficult,” Madipalli says. “I’d often arrive at an accommodation that was advertised as accessible only to find steps to the front door!”

    Wheelchair user Mr Madipalli is an Oxford graduate who worked as a solicitor for many years before wanting a change. He then decided to learn some programming skills to enable him to design the blueprint for the Accomable web site that is designed to change the holiday options for wheelchair users the world over. The original remit was to conquer the UK market and then Europe but recent developments show that the US is now being served with wheelchair friendly properties popping up in San Francisco and other states. Accomable now  lists more than 1000 places to stay in over 60 countries worldwide.

    TO ensure that Accomable meets the grade there is a remit that Mr Madipalli has set out:

    “Our minimum requirements are that each property must have step-free access, at least one step-free bedroom and bathroom, and that the step-free bathroom has at least one adaptation. We extensively list and verify each property’s accessible features, using photo and video technology, to offer as much information to our customers as possible,” he says. “We visit properties all of the time (some of our team are based abroad, too), and we often tap into the disabled community.”

    Wanting to go one step further than AirBnb Mr Madipalli has now broadened the horizons and is working on adding everything from accessible transportation to a fully organised holidays, with the ultimate objective of making Accomable a one-stop shop for mobility friendly travel.

    “Our mission is to help anyone go anywhere. We want to make vacations fun and stress-free, whether it’s your first-time holidaying in a wheelchair, you need additional care or are traveling as a family,” Madipalli says. “To do this, our ethos is to be as open and transparent as possible, giving our customers all the information, so they can find the right stay for their needs. Most people on our team have a mobility issue, so we understand the challenges our customers face.”

  • A back flip in a wheelchair ?

    Is this really possible we thought? Having seen the video we have to say yes - Lily has perfected wheelchair backflip and what a sight it is !

    Lily Rice from Pembrokeshire in Wales is possibly the first European girl to have performed the back flip in a wheelchair. Lily accomplished this awesome trick at Rampworld in Cardiff where wheelchairs, scooters and BMX bikes are encouraged to use the facility of ramps provided by the non-profit making charity set up to provide a progressive indoor Extreme sports training facility for South Wales.

    To see Lily career down the steep ramp in her wheelchair is scary enough but to see her then leave the ramp and conclude the full flip somersault is simply brilliant. Her self-propelled wheelchair copes with the jump and landing comfortably but has seen a few knocks in practice as Lily perfected this wheelchair stunt.

    To say Lily is brace is an understatement. But clearly being a wheelchair user has not stemmed her confidence and if anything she looks to be having the time of her life as she flings her and her chair around the ramps.

    Lily who suffers from hereditary spastic paraplegia needs the wheelchair as the condition causes weakness in her lower body leaving her unable to walk. Her upper body however is strong and allows her to hurl herself and the wheelchair about with ease to complete the back flip.

    Lily hopes to take part in the forthcoming Wheelchair Moto X championships in the US next year and we wish her all the best of luck from UK Wheelchairs.

  • Invictus games commence with wheelchair tennis win for UK

    With the Invictus games now underway we will be looking forward to all sports but particularly wheelchair tennis which is such a great game to watch. Today the preliminary open doubles wheelchair tennis has started with competitors Kirk Hughes and Cornelia Oosthuizen from the United Kingdom playing the host team from Canada with Pearce Bourassa and Kelly Scanlan. Naturally the UK won the game with a final score of 6-0 being a brilliant start to the wheelchair tennis tournament.

    Next up was Holland versus New Zealand. The Dutch fans could be heard chanting ‘Holland’ repeatedly, and the stands were filled with easily identifiable orange t-shirts and the national Dutch flag as Jelle van der Steen and Ronald van Dort took their match with a score of 6-3. Although both are players in the wheelchair tennis tournament they are also about to compete in both wheelchair basketball and swimming.

    "It is great to see them playing sports they love,” said Jelle’s father. After their wheelchair tennis match, Jelle and Ronald spoke about their experience playing with one another.

    “We have been playing tennis together for a few months now. A very short time,” Jelle said. They enjoy playing wheelchair tennis, but wheelchair basketball is their sport. “We play wheelchair tennis well but we are wheelchair basketball players.  That is our sport and wheelchair tennis is our extra sport,” Ronald said.

    You can visit the official Invictus site and see more wheelchair tennis by clicking here. Why not tune in and watch some of the Invicta games, hopefully you might be as inspired as me when you get to see some of the wheelchair sports.

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