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Wheelchair News

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  • 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.

  • Folding wheels for wheelchairs

    We like to keep up to date on all things wheelchairs and show particular interest in new technology that may affect us in the coming years. So it was with particular interest when i read about folding wheelchair wheels and how they may just become a mainstream option for everyday wheelchair users who travel frequently.

    SO why would a folding wheelchair wheel be of benefit? the main reason is the ability to stow the wheels with ease in overhead lockers in aircraft or other areas in public transport where space is restricted. The overhead locker option is very attractive as it would mean that the wheelchair could remain in the cabin where it is secure and not be put in the airplane hold where it could become damaged.

    This has all come about as a result of hard work from one man who also created foldable wheels for bicycles manufactured by Morph wheels. "This is the first foldable wheelchair wheel," says Kathleen Hanek, product management Director at Morph Wheels. "It's all about making things easier and increasing accessibility for wheelchair users" she says.

    I think there is also a profit driven motif here somewhere as the early inference is that a pair of these folding wheelchair wheels will cost something in the region of £800.

    Currently the folding wheels are a little heavy and weight approximately double what a standard wheelchair wheel does due to their construction using solid rubber tyres rather than pneumatic. But as we all know, solid tyres have their benefits and are not prone to punctures !

    Early feedback from wheelchair users is very positive - "I've never seen anything like them," says Bob Vogel, a paraplegic wheelchair user who writes for the New Mobility magazine owned by the United Spinal Association. "I love the innovation. I don't see your average user taking the time to fold a wheel to get it into a car," he says. "If it takes an extra 20 seconds per wheel, that's a lot of time."

    Of course like many great inventions it took a British designer to get the concept off the ground and this all started with work by a British designer called Duncan Fitzsimmons.  After receiving enquiries from us folk in the wheelchair community, he eventually decided to teamed up with Maddak and redesigned the bicycle wheels for use on wheelchairs.

    The design process consulted a number of wheelchair users in a focus group to ensure that a practical design was born and that the end result was a truly usable product that would benefit wheelchair users in their everyday lives. As a result, the design was named the top design in the transportation industry in 2013 by the London Museum of Design.

    "The trick was to create a wheel that wasn't just a folding wheel," Hanek says. "It needs to act and feel just like a normal wheel when it's unfolded."

    It would be fantastic to see the price of these folding wheelchair wheels come down to an affordable price so that they could be made available for more wheelchair users before too long.

  • Paperweights and wheelchairs

    In a hugely digitally led era we found it amusung to see Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson handing out specially produced paperweights to Lifetime Achiever Award winners at the British Healthcare Trades Association’s (BHTA) Centenary celebrations.

    Pictured in her wheelchair, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson looked very proud to be dispensing the relatively useless largely defunt objects to those who have made significant difference to peoples lives, while the BHTA President Mike Lord congratulated the guests for their efforts and thanked them for their valuable contributions to the healthcare industry.

    The British Healthcare Trades Awards will be presented on Thursday 30th November 2017 but it was good to see the lifetime achievers together to recognise the good they have done which has helped to imrove the quality of lives for all including those of us who use wheelchairs.

    The Dame does so much good work including being Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords, a formidible Paralympic athlete and her more recent role as a motivational speaker not to mention her being a mother and all taken in her 'stride' as a wheelchair user. Tanni as she likes to be known, realised at age 13 that Wheelchair Racing was her chosen sport and from then onwards did all that she could to excel in everything that she turned her hand to.

  • Protecting the wheelchair during air travel

    With another story of a wheelchair getting damaged in transit with an airline we look in to what else can be done to minimise the risk of this happening to you and your wheelchair.

    Last week Andy Lathams custom wheelchair was damaged beyond repair by handling agent Swissport who operate in many airports in the UK. Its not clear what happened to the wheelchair only that it was left in such a bad state that it was not usable and this was at the start of his holiday with his wife.

    The self propelled wheelchair was loaded on to the Ryan air plane in a folded state and somehow during the loading process it contacted with the aircraft and caused damage to the airplane also leaving it unfit to fly and causing all passenger to have to leave that aircraft.

    Andy who was left partly paralysed following a brain hemorrhage is dependent on his wheelchair for most of the day. Once disembarking it was clearly evident that the wheelchair had received a series of heavy knocks that had caused one wheel and the frame to become badly bent.

    If you are planning a trip soon and fear that your wheelchair may become damaged then there are a few basic steps that you can take to best protect your valuable wheelchair from unnecessary damage. The first one is to buy and use a bag that is designed for the transportation of wheelchairs. Check that the wheelchair bag has a modicum of padding in all areas including the base where it will rest on the ground but also the side panels which will contain the wheelchair.

    In order to reduce damage to the wheelchair it is best remove all components from the frame so that they too can be placed in the bag and do not protrude which will help to prevent them from being broken. So, wheels, footrests and headrests off and placed to one side. next fold the wheelchair and once folded use the clip (if supplied) to secure the wheelchair in the folded position. If your model doesn’t have a clip then a short bungee elastic is useful to maintain the chair in the folded position. By doing this you are removing the stress on the hinges and joints of the wheelchair frame. Finally, place the removable components in to the pockets in the wheelchair bag and ensure that no parts are sticking out or particularly in to the wheels or spokes.

    We also advise that wheelchair tyres are part deflated if it is due to be put in the hold. We have heard of examples of tyre pressure causing the tyres to burst when the pressure adjusts. This can be prevented by reducing that pressure but of course mans that you will need to carry a suitable wheelchair pump to ensure you can increase the pressure once you have landed.

    If you use a wheelchair cushion then we recommend taking an extra inflatable cushion which can be deflated and packed away with ease. If your main cushion is lost then you can use the inflatable wheelchair cushion and it can also come in handy during the flight itself.

    Finally we have found it a good idea to wear compression socks during the flight. As a wheelchair user your lower limbs may encounter poor circulation and the wearing of these socks is good for preventing leg swelling and helps the body to stay warm in colder weather.

  • Safe use of mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs

    When we read this we thought it was suitable to write a quick post although it doesnt relate directly to wheelchairs it does relate to electric wheelchairs.

    To many folk, the boundaries are a bit vague when it comes to what can be used on the pavements legally and safely, powerchairs, electric wheelchairs, scooters and e-bikes included.

    Having watched the recent news of a cyclist becoming prosecuted for causing the death of a pedestrian it shows that its not only cars and larger vehicles that can cause lethal damage and that some of the bigger mobility vehicles including scooters and electric wheelchairs are soon to come under closer scrutiny when it comes to use on pavements.

    All of these rules come under the broader heading of traffic laws and that includes electric wheelchairs and scooters. Ministers have been urged for some time to change these laws after alarming figures show an increase in the number of crashes involving mobility scooters and powerchairs.

    It is being suggested that the Highway Code needs to be reviewed to include the large number of unconventional vehicles on the roads and of course pavements. It comes about following an incident in Gosport Hampshire where a child was struck by a mobility scooter and dragged along a pavement suffering cuts and bruises.

    This incident is being described as hit and run although as he was walking with his family at the time i can’t see how this can be quite right as surely someone would have challenged the occupant of the scooter to resolve what had happened.

    When you have any wheeled vehicle sharing space with pedestrians then it makes sense to have some rules to ensure safety for all. Some scooters and electric wheelchairs are quite substantial in weight and can travel at speeds that could potentially cause damage to people or property.

    Perhaps some form of licensing is needed to regulate the use of smaller vehicles and differentiate between those that are required for genuine mobility reasons such as powerchairs and electric wheelchairs and those that are currently used out of convenience which includes some scooter users.

    As our towns and cities are getting busier it would make sense to restrict the use and speed of some of the larger and heavier non-conventional vehicles, leaving users of powerchairs and electric wheelchairs with true mobility issues to go about their business in a safe and dignant manner.

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