I recently had a home demo of the WHILL model C powerchair from TGA Mobility. I had seen some videos about it on-line and it looked robust, well-designed and hi-tech so I thought I would give it a try but unfortunately it’s not for me.
It has lots of plus points: it copes well with uneven surfaces and would easily deal with a kerb of up to 2 inches, its cleverly-designed wheels mean it has a very tight turning circle and it can even go sideways. You can operate it remotely via an app, so if you were sitting on a chair, for example, and the WHILL was not next to you, you could use your mobile to bring the WHILL over. The armrests are quite low so I could pull right up to our desk without having to raise the arms.
On the other hand, I really don’t think I would need to operate it remotely, so having the cost of that technical innovation included in the price is a bit of a waste. The seat is in two parts – the basic seat and the cushioned part, which is perhaps why there was a peculiar rocking motion as I went around. It is easy to manoeuvre but while the joystick is positioned for your stronger hand, the on/off and speed controls are on the other side which I found a little problematic.
The deal-breaker for me, though, was not being able to lift the foot plate, which would mean not being get out of the chair independently. Also, the large front wheels get in the way a bit when getting on and off. I was almost relieved that it wasn’t the perfect powerchair given the hefty price-tag.
The rep showed us how the chair worked (although not the remote operation) and we tested it both indoors and out and he put no pressure on us whatsoever which was great and he said our comments and feedback were useful to him for future demos.
Everyone’s needs and abilities are different, so for some people this well-designed piece of kit will be perfect.