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  • Dont rely on the railways if you travel by wheelchair

    Again we forced to look at travel issues that face the wheelchair user. With all the turmoil of the revised rail timetables across the UK, wheelchair users seem to be getting the raw end of the deal and in some cases it seems that the disability discrimination legislation has been flouted entirely.

    The major problem facing wheelchair users seems to be wit the TransPennine Express route as for a while the normal modern carriage have been replaced with old rolling stock including 45 year old carriages that do not cater for wheelchair users.

    The main rail workers’ union has accused TransPennine Express of disregarding the current disability discrimination legislation and in effect operating a heritage railway by bringing back into service carriages that were built in the 1970s for British Rail.

    Currently, 12 of the 34 hourly services to and from Liverpool and Scarborough via Manchester Victoria, Huddersfield, Leeds and York are affected effectively meaning that wheelchairs will not be able to travel on these routes. Furthermore, if wheelchair users do want to use this route they will be declined access if an older style carriage arrives and instead asked to use the next train thus facing a wait of one hour. If the following train is also not suitable then a taxi will be provided for the wheelchair user(s).

    The old carriages are unfit for wheelchair use in a number of ways but mainly the problem is dues to the slam style doors, small inaccessible toilets, the low-back seats and grab rails, all of which fail to meet the specifications of disability access regulations.

    Mick Cash, the general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), said: “British private train companies are ripping up disability discrimination legislation as they go along.” He accused TPE of “turning the clock back on progress that has been made”.

    Those of us who rely on wheelchairs are already dealt a bad hand by trains in northern England and unable to easily board any of the dozens of the Pacer trains in operation across the region. A musingly, an RMT spokesman said: “These train companies are effectively operating a heritage railway, using old rolling stock that went out of fashion when Slade were in the charts” which speaks volumes.

  • Students help design an electric wheelchair for children

    Although we don’t condone making your own wheelchair you do have to admire some folks efforts particularly when it is a wheelchair for a child. Described as an affordable electric wheelchair this one certainly looks the part and has put a smile on the kids face as engineers from Bigham Young University scratched their heads for a design that can be made at home.

    Using blue PVC pipe the frame was constructed and is described as having the benefit of being expandable as the child grows. Pram wheels were used on the rear and electric motors fitted to the front castors enabling it to turn with ease.

    A young mother is the United States was presented with the homemade electric wheelchair and expressed her gratitude as she said every kid wants the mobility every other child has. £ year old Tanner Jensen who has spinal muscle atrophy was presented with the children’s electric wheelchair and took to it without any fuss and within seconds had the biggest smile as he used the joystick controller to navigate his way around the indoor stadium on his maiden voyage.

    This wheelchair made the news and is now described as an open source wheelchair as its plans are available and all items used in its construction can be bought in a hardware store.

    Muscular Atrophy: three-year-old Tanner Jensen and 20-month-old Skyler.

    “Working with the Jensen family made the whole project more meaningful,” said Ian Freeman, who worked on the chair. “We knew we had to deliver a working wheelchair for these boys. It gave us a lot of motivation from the very beginning.” said faculty coach Mark Colton  “This capstone project is one of the most satisfying that I’ve done—and one of the best teams I’ve worked with. These students wanted to do something excellent and not just get a good grade.”

    Mark reasoned that although the chair has limitations it is good more general use and can be built for around $500 instead of the usual $5,000 that an off the shelf model could cost.

    For our selection of manual children’s wheelchair please visit here: https://www.uk-wheelchairs.co.uk/childrens-wheelchairs

  • Electric wheelchair maintenance - a quick guide

    If you are the user of an electric wheelchair or powerchair then you might be interested in this short article on electric wheelchair maintenance that includes a quick and easy check of the three main areas that affect the reliability and smooth running of your powerchair.

    Manufacturers of all types of powerchairs list these three simple steps as things that should be checked on your wheelchair regularly and certainly every week. On an annual basis it is sensible to have your electric wheelchair serviced with a qualified technician but in the meanwhile here are three things to look at each time you use your mobility aid:

    Battery status

    For the health of your wheelchair battery and for your well being it is always worth checking the status of the battery charge before you go anywhere in your powerchair. We should all do it on a daily basis so that you can get to your destination and back with complete confidence and avoid getting stranded and needing help. It is always best to refer to the manufacturers hand book for explicit instructions but we find that charging your electric wheelchair battery every night will give you sufficient go juice for the following day. If it doesn’t, then it might be worth getting the battery checked as it may need replacing.

    Tyre check

    Broadly speaking, there are two types of tyres fitted to powerchairs, those that are inflatable or pneumatic and those that are solid. If they are pneumatic then you will need to check the pressure on a weekly basis to ensure that they are correctly pressurised. If they are not then the handling of your electric wheelchair might be affected and you can also begin to wear the tyres unevenly if they are soft.

    The other check is to look for signs of wear and for sharp objects that might have become embedded in the tyres. If you do find a nail or similar please don’t be tempted to pull it out as this might lead to your powerchair being unusable. It is best to visit a tyre centre to ask them to take a look then they can deal with the problem in the event that it does become deflated.

    Fixings

    Every electric wheelchair uses many nuts and bolts to bond the various components together. Most use a type of nut that is intended to withstand vibration and therefore is unlikely to come lose. However it is wise to check the visible ones on a regular basis as your powerchair depends on the integrity of these items and if one works lose you might lose power or control of the mobility aid.

    All of the above are easy to carry out and give peace of mind when you go out in your powerchair regardless of whether it’s a long trip or a shorter journey to the local shops. Good luck with your powerchair maintenance!

  • How to get the most from your electric wheelchair battery

    If an electric wheelchairs plays a very important part in your independence then its all the more important to get the most from its battery so that you can hang on to as much freedom as possible and enjoy that freedom in your everyday life.

    One thing that you will rely on heavily on your electric wheelchair is the battery and helping it to keep its charge for longer and extending its life will make all the difference.

    When you buy an electric wheelchair, the chances are the battery will already have been charged before it left the factory. But it is always worth giving it a top up charge before you use the powerchair for the first time. If for some reason the battery hasn’t been charged then you will need charge it for at least 24 hours before you first use the electric wheelchair.

    What kind of batteries do electric wheelchairs use ?

    There are two main types of battery used in powerchairs, and they are ‘gel’ and ‘sealed lead acid’. Gel electric wheelchair batteries are generally more pricey because they can take more charges than sealed lead acid batteries and therefore last longer. So we always recommend gel batteries for use in their electric wheelchair or powerchair. Both types of battery are sealed to stop spillage and are these days completely maintenance free. Sealed lead acid batteries offer better value for money and are better suited for those who use their powerchairs occasionally. The most important thing to remember is to never let your battery run entirely flat as this limits their life span.

    Powerchair batteries Sealed lead cell Powerchair batteries give better value than gel batteries

    Always use the correct charger for your electric wheelchair battery. If you use one with the wrong power rating you could damage the battery or could result in overheating. So always use the correct charging leads and charger unit that were supplied with your powerchair. If you take proper care of the batter you should expect a life span of12 to 18 months.

    How to get the best range from your powerchair

    When using your electric wheelchair you can help to save charge by minimising the use by keeping lights off unless really needed for safety. It is also good to turn the power off on the powerchair when not in use which will also help to preserve the charge.

    Finally to get the best performance from your electric wheelchair always charge the battery to full capacity. If you do not then the battery will lose its 'memory' and will hold less charge meaning that you will not be able to cover as much distance when using the powerchair.

  • Heathrow loses a BBC wheelchair

    Perhaps there will be a bit more focus on the plight of wheelchairs that are lost or damaged while in the charge of airlines now that it has happened to a BBC correspondent.

    Frank Gardner the security correspondent for the BBC was left on a plane for 90 minutes yesterday while the airport staff scurried about to find Mr gardeners wheelchair.

    Mr Gardner who flew in from Addis Ababa has needed a wheelchair since he was shot six times in the legs during an al-Qaeda gun attack in Saudi Arabia in 2004 which left both his legs partially paralysed.

    In a tweet sent by Mr Gardner he made it clear that the problem of missing wheelchairs always occurs at London’s Heathrow airport and generally speaking nowhere else. Frank wrote: “Odd that I can travel round the Middle East and elsewhere without a hitch. Yet time and again @HeathrowAirport loses my wheelchair on arrival. Now been on an empty plane 1.5 hours after landing. “Believe me, I’m as bored of writing this as you are of reading it.

    “Just when is the UK’s premier airport going to stop treating disabled passengers this way?”

    Later, he tweeted: “Finally got off the plane exactly 100 mins after landing. I’ve had better treatment in Djibouti.”

    It seems that it is a decision by the cabin crew that dictates whether the wheelchair can enter the cabin for the flight or whether it needs to be kept in the hold for the duration of the flight. Mr Gardner adds that during long haul flights he generally has his wheelchair on the cabin whereas it is the shorter flights that seem to lead to the loss of the wheelchair once it has been placed in the hold along with instructions to bring it up to door on arrival which he sys is frequently ignored by the crew.

    On this occasion the wheelchair was whisked off to the baggage reclaim area which was of course no use as he couldn’t get there. Mr Gardner makes it very clear that any fuss is not about him but moreso the bigger picture which seems to point to general lack of respect for the disabled fraternity.

    The BBC correspondent later told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m not making this fuss about this for me. I’m doing this because there are hundreds, possibly thousands of others who suffer the same experience.

    “All we get are these platitudes from Heathrow airport.

    “Nothing changes, it goes on and on happening.

    “If you can’t walk and your wheelchair has been taken into the terminal, that is your legs gone, that is your mobility gone. It’s a basic human right.”

    A spokesperson for Heathrow said: “We apologise unreservedly if the service Mr Gardner received today fell short of the experience we aim to provide to our passengers.

    “We are working with the responsible airline to investigate what went wrong in this case.”

    The official line is The Civil Aviation Authority stipulates: “On arrival, your wheelchair or mobility aid should be returned to you at the arrival gate, unless there are extenuating reasons.”

    Just o show that Heathrwow isn’t the only offending airport Mr Gardner had a similar experience recently at London Gatwick after special assistance failed to turn up to meet the flight.

    Let’s hope something positive is taken from this to minimize the loss of any wheelchair in the near future.

  • Fun in the snow for wheelchair user Bethany

    The snow didn’t stop one little girl from having some fun despite her being a wheelchair user. Insisting that his daughter shouldn’t miss out, Mr Smith, Bethany’s father, decided it was time for some inventing in order to get his daughter out of her wheelchair and in to the snow.

    So the specially adapted children’s wheelchair was parked up temporarily as he converted the family washing basket in to a sledge that was warm and comfortable for Bethany who suffers from a life-limiting neuromuscular condition called Mitochondrial Myopathy.

    “We came up with the idea of adapting a washing basket and adding some padding. When we went out it wasn’t snowing but by the time we got going it was a blizzard so that’s why she had an umbrella too.

    She really enjoyed it, she just said it was amazing and funny, it was the fact she’s never been sledging before.” said Mr Smith.

    The adapted washing basket seemed to work well and used in conjunction with an umbrella Bethany was able to enjopy her time out of the wheelchair and her first foray in to winter snow sports.

    Bethany uses a manual pediatric wheelchair on a daily basis but is hoping to move on to an electric wheelchair before too long so that she can gain some independence both at home and at school where her teaching assistant often pushes her wheelchair. With her special requirements the electric wheelchair is likely to cost in the region of £18,000 so the family are presently raising money towards its purchase.

    We wish Bethany and her family all the best in this challenge and hope that she is able to upgrade to an electric wheelchair as soon as possible.

  • Electric wheelchair loses power in snow

    Electric wheelchairs are an ideal solution for many and allow greater freedom and independence. That is of course until the battery runs out and you are left stranded, this time in the snow and icy conditions.

    However, this woman was in luck as Firefighters were soon on the scene and went the extra mile to help the Doncaster woman stranded in the snow in her wheelchair.

    The blue watch crew received the call that stated someone was stranded in their electric wheelchair near the Moorends are of Doncaster.

    Moments later to the wheelchair user’s delight, the fire crew arrived and checked she was ok before attempting the long push home.

    A spokesman for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said: "Firefighters pushed her the quarter of a mile in the snow to her home and made sure she was safe and well."

    If you use an electric wheelchair or powerchair I’m sure that you are always mindful of the battery life to avoid this type of incident. However when temperatures drop as low as they have been in the UK recently it is important to remember that wheelchair batteries do not last as long in low temperatures, particularly when they are sub zero.

    There is not much that can be done to avoid this or to extend the batter life, so we suggest that you allow for battery performance deterioration and expect your electric wheelchair battery to last approximately half as long in these bitterly cold conditions.

    Ideally stay put warm at home but if you need to go out in your powerchair then please make allowances and only expect half performance from your wheelchair battery until the temperatures increase to normal springtime conditions.

  • 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 !

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