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.
For parks and other outdoor places where the going is a bit rough for the Luggie, I use my Eden Bootmaster Plus (or Kymco Mini as the insurers refer to it). It has a wider wheelbase, so can cope with a certain amount of unevenness while still being fairly compact and with a small turning circle. The Luggie does very well (I used to go to our allotment on it!) but the Bootmaster gives you a much smoother ride and less jolting when going over bumps – it feels safer and more stable.
There are a few drawbacks – the seat is not very comfortable as it’s at quite an angle, so if you are sitting upright, you aren’t in contact with much of the seatback and I can’t alter the (very sensitive!) speed dial with my right hand while driving. On the plus side, it dismantles into four parts – five if you include the basket on the front which I’ve discarded – none of which are as heavy as the Luggie.
The seat will swivel to one side although I don’t tend to need to use this feature and you can adjust the tiller so it’s closer or further away from you as you prefer.
I couldn’t use it at work as it is important to be able to adjust speed quickly when moving amongst crowds of people – for that reason, plus the uncomfortable seat, I wouldn’t really recommend this scooter and besides, I have a new set of wheels, but that’s another story! There are new styles being introduced all the time, so there’s probably something a bit better out there if you are after a compact scooter that will go in your boot.
What a shame, the Book Pillow is no more – they have discontinued production. There’s nothing else quite like it on the market as far as I can see, although there are similar things for i-pads and e-readers, but they don’t look as good.
This isn’t exactly an accessibility thing but I think lots of people would find a book pillow useful! They are really light and both prop your book and help keep it open. Highly recommended!
I keep mentioning my scooter – it’s a Luggie and has various good and bad points. It’s very nippy – it can turn in a very small space so is great indoors and copes remarkably well outdoors on gravel, for example, but is better on smoother surfaces. You can take it on aeroplanes, either on board or in the hold. We had a bit of a rigmarole with one airline who couldn’t decide if the battery should be looked after by us or them, but it was fine in the end. Assembly seems complicated at first but gets easier with practice! It folds up to no bigger than a small suitcase.
On the minus side, the website says it is very light but it is too heavy for me to lift. It is not terribly robust – given that it is designed to be lifted in and out of car boots, we’ve had bits fall off on occasion which gets rather expensive! On the whole I’m pleased with it but they don’t seem to do it in yellow anymore!