Float like a Butterfly

“I’d love some ‘wings’ that could enhance my mobility. If there was something better than a wheelchair, I’d be the first in line to swap mine out!” - Hilary Lewis (21 years using a wheelchair)

n this world of technology the way that we do things is changing and improving at a phenomenal speed, but what about mobility options? We have seen major improvements to wheelchairs, but what about alternatives to wheelchairs or making wheelchairs easier to move and more manoeuvrable as and when you need it?

Rolling Inspiration explored what other options are out there to improve the lives of those with restricted mobility and we found some exciting products. The problem with technology is the price tag that comes with it!

ELECTRIC SCOOTERS

Segway

The Segway consists of two wheels and a handle bar. You step on to it, lean forward and it goes forward, lean backwards and it stops – lean to either side and it turns. The more you lean, the faster it goes – until you try to go too fast and the self-limiter kicks in, then it starts leaning back towards you to limit your speed, according to how it has been set up. It is so smooth and so easy – and such FUN!

This advanced technology consists of intelligent sensors, control systems, gyroscopes and accelerometers, which sense what your body is doing and respond over 100 times per second. The exhilarating sensation of gliding around with so little effort is even more awesome. No wonder it has become such a popular tool amongst people with mobility impairments.

For anyone who has trunk control and is able to walk short distances, this mobility tool can open up a whole new world of opportunities.

Crawford College in Pretoria Rolling Inspiration visited Stephen Walgenbach at Crawford College in Pretoria. He has an incomplete SCI and is able to walk a little, but his walking is slow. When he first started at the school, he needed extra time to get to classes, which complicated his mainstreaming into the school. They agreed to allow him to use the Segway between classes and it has made a world of difference. Not only has it given him a new level of independence and freedom, but it has also made him the “coolest kid in the class.” Between his Segway, which has helped remove the physical barriers at school, and his positive attitude, he is a fully integrated and accepted member of a very culturally diverse class.

Justin and Joshua Justin and Joshua are two brothers with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  Justin, who is now nine, is still able to walk well, but he tires quickly. One of the problems with muscular dystrophy is the permanent damage to the muscles as a result of overuse.

The Segway prevents the overuse syndrome and is hopefully helping to maintain what function he has. It took Justin only minutes to learn how to handle the Segway. He mainly uses it when he needs to walk long distances, such as at shopping malls, but if he is tired he sometimes even uses it around the house.  His younger brother Joshua loves any opportunity to hop up and have a ride.

Their dad, Colin McKenzie, is happy to give advice on the Segway or on Muscular Dystrophy (082-784-0805).

Segway X2There are currently two versions of the Segway available, the i2 and the X2. The i2 is the “about town” version and can travel up to 38kms on a single charge. It weighs 47kg and is 63.5cms wide, making it suitable for indoor use as it easily fits through a doorway and has a very small turning circle. It is priced from R70 000 excl. vat.

The X2 is the off-road version which travels easily over rough ground, the perfect option for nature lovers or golfers and does up to 19km on a single charge. It weighs 54kgs and is 84cms wide. Both models are available, with accessories, from Segway South Africa 011-728-6059 (www.segway.co.za). Rental options are also available.

Segseat The gliding, effortless movement has appealed to people with various types of disabilities around the world, and two companies, neither of whom are affiliated with Segway, have developed seats that can easily be clipped onto the Segway.

The Segseat (segseat.com) is similar to a bicycle seat and suits people with high above knee amputations, incomplete SCI, muscular dystrophy and MS. The seat is available for both the i2 and X2 at $449 plus $75 shipping (excl. VAT).

SegSolutions have developed the Freedom GlidR Seats ($899 excl. shipping and vat) for the x2 and i2. The A1 has a low slung seat and is suited to bilateral amputees. The B1 will be suited to paraplegics who have some balance. The seat will be higher with an optional backrest. Visit them at http://segsolutions4freedom.com

Zappy 3 Pro

The Zappy 3 Pro electric scooter is a more affordable option for people who need help with walking long distances.  The 3-wheel base is very stable for standing on, but it also has a seat if preferred. It can travel up to 21kph, has a range of 39km, is driven by a 350 watt electric motor, weighs 36kg, and has a thumb throttle and a lever brake. The Zappy is available from Mobility One for +/- R8000 (exchange rate dependant).

Electric Personal Transporter (EPT)

EPT The EPT is similar in look to the Segway but rides on four wheels, has no gyro and uses an accelerator throttle and a hand brake to stop. It has a weight EPT capacity of 150kg, weighs 54kg and uses three standard 12V/10Ah batteries to deliver 20kph over a 30km range. The EPT folds easily for loading into the car boot and is available from Bev at CFM Agencies on 084-581-3849. The EPT costs R11.343 plus about R400 for delivery from Pietermaritzburg.

POWER ASSIST WHEELS

Power assist wheels are mounted on wheelchairs in place of the manual wheels. They have a motor, integrated into the wheel hub, which senses the amount of force that the user exerts.  The motor enhances the force and assists the propulsion. Slight pressure to the push-rims propels the wheelchair in ANY direction.

Users can maintain the look, control and functionality of a manual chair, without the extra effort of unassisted manual propulsion.

Quickie Xtender

The Quickie Xtender (available from CE Mobility - 0860-236-624) comes in two versions, one increases the force applied to the handrims by a factor of 1.5 the other increases the force by a factor of 3. This added assistance can decrease the user’s energy expenditure by as much as 45%. In addition to providing power assist for going up hills, the motor/gearing also acts as a break when travelling downhill thus ensuring the safety of the power-assist operation. The Quickie Xtender can be fitted to the Quickie 2, Quickie 2HP, Quickie GP/GPV, Quickie GP Swing Away, and Quickie GP Titanium chair models. and adds only 16.7kgs of weight. The overall weight is divided into three components, the heaviest of which is 7.9kgs.

Quickie Xtender Ari Seirlis reports that his Quicke Xtenders have changed his life, giving him complete mobile independence in areas that were previously inaccessible to him. As a C5 quad he is able to go up and down ramps that he would never have managed unassisted. He has reduced the strain on his shoulders through the reduced effort of constantly pushing his chair. He loves the versatility of the quick release wheels which allow him to pop on and off the wheels of his choice, thus keeping the portability of his manual chair.

E-motion M15

E-motion M15E-motion wheels can be fitted to almost all conventional wheelchair models via a specially designed bracket mounted on the wheelchair frame. The manual wheelchair wheels can still be used with the bracket attached. The E-Motion M15s are powered by long lasting Lithium Ion batteries integrated into the wheel hub. The wheels are programmable for indoor or outdoor use, and each wheel has ten different performance levels to choose from. They also have a Rollback delay to prevent the wheelchair from

rolling backwards when climbing inclines or ramps. Their quick release mechanism makes them easy to remove and thus easily transportable. E-motions are available from Barry Edy, tel.: 031-776-4992, 082-657-3734 or email bedy@iafrica.com.

CLIP ON  POWER PACKS

Clip on Power packs are made up of a motor and battery pack which clips onto a manual wheelchair, and enables the wheelchair to be driven like a power chair. The system provides the benefits of a manual chair, such as the weight and transportability whilst having the benefits of power. Some power packs are designed to be controlled by an attendant, but others provide the control to the user.

E-Fix

E-FixThe E-Fix quick release motorised hub is similar to the E-Motion wheels but controlled via a joystick control, instead of pushing the wheel. Users can easily switch from power to manual operation with a simple and quick turn of the wheel hubs. It has an adjustable speed of up to 6 kph and can travel up to 16 kms on one charge. The E-Fix solution is available from Barry Edy: 031-776-4992 082-657-3734 bedy@iafrica.com

Twin Wheel Powerpack

The Twin Wheel Powerpack (from Medop 011-827-5893) attaches to any wheelchair in literally seconds. The 250W motor produces speeds of up to 6kmh and, with a range of up to 19km per charge, there is more than enough capacity for most days out.

The Twin Wheel Powerpack weighs 21.3kgs, making it relatively easy to lift and load it and has a weight capacity of 110kgs. This is designed to give a care attendant power control.

Quickie F16 Power Pack

Quickie 2Quickie F16 The Quickie F16 (from CE Mobility 0860-236-624) is ideal for the person who does not require a powered wheelchair on a full-time basis. Your manual chair converts into a powered chair for those days when you feel more independent.  This battery powered propulsion unit is compatible with the Quickie 2, Quickie 2 Millenium and the RXS manual wheelchair. It can also be used as a retro-fit conversion kit, without tools, using existing holes in the frame. The large, rear-propelling wheels of a manual wheelchair are replaced by two small wheels with a power drive and batteries in casing. The controls, which detach from the armrest, feature a swing-away joystick unit.

P-001 Power Pack P-001 PowerPack

The P-001 Power Pack (from Mobility One 0861-662-454) has a Twin-wheel design and can attach to any 40 – 50 cm wheelchairs. It has a 136kg weight capacity and the 280W motor produces speeds of up to 2.2km/h and a range of 16km. The total weight is 14kgs. It is designed to give the care attendant power control.

Shoprider Power /Manual chair

Shoprider Power /Manual chair. This power wheelchair quickly and easily becomes a manual chair. When the manual wheels are attached to the chair the power wheels are slightly raised so that it can only be used as a manual chair. The power unit can easily be removed to reduce weight and can only be used when the manual wheels are removed from the chair as this lowers the power wheels onto the floor. The joystick control unit is positioned to be used by the person in the chair. Available from Shoprider: 012-653-1817

OTHER

Duet Tandem Duet Tandem

The Duet Tandem is an amazing concept that combines a wheelchair and a bike into a tandem that provides real mobility and fun. The beauty of this bike is that it separates in seconds allowing the wheelchair user to speedily become independently mobile once you both arrive at your destination. It provides a wonderful opportunity for parents to share fun quality time with a disabled child or even a disabled partner. Go to www.londonrecumbents.com or www.frankmobility.com for more information.

Swiss-Trac

The Swiss-Trac is described as a tractor which pulls a wheelchair. It is clipped onto the front of any manual wheelchair, providing an electronically controlled towing unit which can be steered and controlled by the wheelchair user. It is compact, durable and easy to operate with a range of over 30kms on level surfaces. Charging time for the maintenance free batteries is about 8 hours and has a gradually adjustable speed of up to 6kph, even over rough terrain. It has a 400W motor, a dynamic motor brake and a mechanical parking brake. These are popular add-ons for shopping and wheeling around show grounds. The child seat is a great accessory for a mother, enabling her to carry her baby whilst providing freedom of mobility. For info visit www.swisstrac.ch/en/home.html

FreeWheel

The FreeWheel was designed by a C6-7 quad who was tired of being restricted to smooth surfaces. He developed a large, lightweight, front wheel that clamps onto any rigid frame wheelchair. It lifts the castors up off the ground and converts your standard wheelchair into an outdoor chair and enables you to push over surfaces that would typically be impossible. It clamps on in seconds and the ingenious design uses the pivot action of the front wheel to lift up the front of the chair. No effort required! He has a small attachment on the back of the wheelchair called the Perch, which secures the FreeWheel when it is not in use. The FreeWheel costs $499 plus shipping and handling with up to 2-4 weeks for delivery. Go to www.gofreewheel.com or email pat@gofreewheel.com for more information.

Smart Crutch

Smart Crutch Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to need crutches will know how much pain they can cause on the hands, wrists and under your shoulders. Smart Crutch is a funky and practical design that spreads the surface area that has to carry your weight. The increased surface area results in a six fold reduction in pressure, which makes a huge difference in reducing those commonly painful pressure areas. The area that supports the forearm is hinged so that it can rotate as the user swings through, thus maintaining the even weight distribution.  They are fully adjustable and have varied foot options for multiple surfaces. Smart Crutch is available from Presta 012-751-1701 and from CE Mobility tell: 0860-236-624.

You can also visit www.smartcrutch.com.

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