I would never wish disability on anyone. However, if anyone had to be chosen to spend a lifetime
using a wheelchair, I was the right person to face such a path as clearly an inclination toward wheelchair
technology somehow ended up in my DNA.|
Often I've shared the story of my being a very young child,
without mobility due to cerebral palsy, and experiencing absolute astonishment during the first time
that I used a power wheelchair, where at the touch of a button, I zipped across a room independently
a true magic carpet ride.
Yet, today, what I think is even more astounding is that, 34 years
later after my first using a power wheelchair, I'm more passionate than ever about mobility technology.
After all, you'd think that after using a power wheelchair for 34 years, the newness would wear off,
that having been in the industry for 15 years, and with Pride Mobility for 10 years, would somewhat mature
my excitement over new wheelchairs. But, that's not the case at all. In fact, the complete opposite is
the case, where despite the fiscal challenges for the industry, and the funding challenges for consumers,
I'm more passionate than ever before about wheelchairs, and namely toward helping consumers obtain the
right mobility and levels of service. That is, I still think that mobility technology is the coolest
field around, and I'm passionate about sharing the liberation of the products with others.
excites me more than when consumers have positive experiences with new products, where the liberation
that their mobility provides truly changes their lives it's why I do what I do. And, each individual's
excitement excites me. See, new power wheelchairs are such an extension of our bodies and lives that
the possibilities that they promise key into our every emotion: How are others going to react to the
color and style of my new wheelchair? How quiet will it sound in my home, and how smooth will it ride
on my way to the bus stop? How will its electronics features enhance my life? And, where will it allow
me to go where I couldn't before? There's an anticipation that's all-consuming. The best way that I
could ever explain the excitement that surrounds getting a new power wheelchair is that it's like getting
a new haircut, a stunning new outfit, and going out on the first date with the person you've always dreamed
of. You just feel on top of the world, with nothing but limitless potential in front of you.
actually been three years since I've gotten a new power wheelchair and a totally new model, no less.
I know that some people may think that because of my roles in the mobility industry and my company, I
must have the the pick of the production line, a proverbial kid in a candy store. However, I treat my
roles with exceptional social responsibility, knowing of how difficult it is for so many to obtain needed
mobility, so when I do use my roles to obtain mobility products, it's for people truly in need, not myself.
I'm blessed with the mobility I have, and I simply don't find it ethical to get new power wheelchairs
of my own when so many others are in need.
Nevertheless, every few years, we come out with a
new model that takes my breath away, where I realize that the new technology can enhance my own mobility
adding additional liberation to my own life and it's then that I order myself a new power wheelchair.
And, with wheelchairs in my DNA, make no mistake, I have a Pavlovian reaction, where I regress to a 6-year-old
child, losing sleep in excitement over getting my own new power wheelchair. Again, there's an all-consuming
anticipation to getting a new wheelchair that I've never experienced under any other circumstance, second
only to the birth of my daughter. Maybe it's some sort of twisted pathology, but wheelchairs intrigue
me to no end and receiving a new one makes me feel like a 1950s kid on Christmas, finding the Schwinn
Phantom bike I've always dreamed of beside the tree, candy-apply red, with its signature gas-tank-style
frame, chrome handlebars and all, where I just want to admire it, taking in its glistening paint and
Based on product launch cycles that correspond with the mobility industry's
trade show, Medtrade, my new power wheelchairs are always received in the fall. So, every few years,
this is among the most inspired of times for me not only do I get to see other consumers receiving
hot new products, but I actually get one of my own.
This year, I've had the privilege of outfitting
my new Q6 Edge, taking much of my lifestyle and career into account in the process which we all should
do when ordering a new wheelchair. I knew that my new power wheelchair had to fit a vast range of uses,
including charity galas, airline travel, trade shows, consumer shows, speaking engagements, disability
awareness programs (as with Boy Scout Jamborees and NASCAR events), and social events, all on top of
everyday independent living tasks. Therefore, my challenge was to have an extremely versatile power wheelchair
that looks appropriate in a vast range of environments, travels well, and performs on whatever terrain
Color selection for me, as with most consumers, was a major factor toward my new
power wheelchair. I've traditionally sported silver because it looked good no matter the occasion or
what I wore. Lamborghini Yellow might look cool at a NASCAR event, but it would look out of place when
I'm speaking on stage or wearing a tuxedo. Similarly, black would look great when I'm at a formal event,
but wouldn't show the power wheelchair's style which I want people to see! at outdoor events or trade
shows. For these reasons, silver has been my default, working well across the board of environments.
Still, for my new power wheelchair, I wanted to diverge from silver but keep a versatility in the
color and as I went through the color spectrum, I realized that if I wanted classy, hi-tech, and sporty,
all in one, I should consider a hybrid finish, leading me to carbon fiber. The black-and-gray carbon
fiber color-keyed perfectly to the overall black-and-gray color scheme of the other components, and gave
me the classy, hi-tech, and sporty look that I wished. Whether I'm at a formal gala or a NASCAR event,
it fits in. And, it has an automotive-grade finish, so it should wear well with airline travel and overall
On the running gear, I went with our Community Use package, consisting of 100A electronics, 6 MPH
4-pole motors, and 14x4 drive wheels. Some consumers wonder why power wheelchair motor technology hasn't
changed dramatically, but really it has. Areas like durability and quietness have dramatically improved
in recent years. However, as important, so has efficiency. This newest-generation 4-pole motor is optimized
to run most efficiently at 8A to 30A, which is where most rehab consumers run their power wheelchairs
in everyday use (though, the motor certainly runs at higher amperages when needed). By engineering the
motor so that it runs most efficiently within the sweet spot of most users, range is optimized, as
is sound and reliability.
I went with 14x4 knobby drive tires which is a huge plus in my uses. Traditional rehab power wheelchairs
are 25.5 wide, which is about the maximum width wished for access to any environment (such as 28 bathroom
door ways, where when the door is hung, the door opening commonly only measures 26 or so). Yet, I've
found that 14x4 tires perform notably better across the spectrum of outdoor environments in my use,
but make a rehab power wheelchair too wide for many of my travels (widening a power wheelchair to 27-28
rules out some accessibility). Fortunately, my new power wheelchair's base is a slender 24 wide as standard,
and only grows to 25.5 when adding 14x4 knobby tires. The result is that I can handle a wide range
of outdoor terrain and enhanced obstacle climbing with the 14x4 tires, while still having a standard
rehab width no more trade-offs between great tires and overall width. (It's also important to note
that while there's a 25.5 overall width at the 14x4 drive wheels, the overall base's width at the
rear casters is only 19, so maneuvering in tight quarters is enhanced, making it less likely to bump
the casters when maneuvering.)
Getting back to appreciation and social responsibility toward mobility products, I actually retained
my entire lift-and-tilt seating system and its electronics from my previous base, using it on my new
base. Again, there are so many people in need, it would have been unethical of me to replace my perfectly-good
seating system, when I could simply transfer it to the new power wheelchair base. Then, I found someone
in need, and fit a user-specific seat on my old-but-good base, and donated it, accordingly. |
it's within these sentiments of appreciation and social responsibility that we should all approach receiving
new wheelchairs: It's great to help ourselves once in a while; however, let's make sure that we help
others all of the time. As I like to live by: People first, then wheelchairs, then ourselves.
Published 11/2010, Copyright 2010, WheelchairJunkie.com