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Wheelchair News

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  • 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 !

  • 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.

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