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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Built to spec

I know there will be those that consider this an unnecessary luxury but even as a part-timer, I spend quite a bit of time sitting in my wheelchair, especially at work. Not only does it help me get around but it gives me a guaranteed seat and much more comfort than wooden or plastic chairs. I want to be able to stay fit enough and sufficiently pain-free that I can continue working for many years to come, so investing in the best chair I could afford, to me, seems worthwhile.


Ottobock Ventus

My old chair was a standard off-the-shelf type, whereas my new one has been made specifically for me. A nice chap called Tom came to my house and measured me in every conceivable direction and then the frame of this chair was built to measure. This required a great deal of patience! It can take 5 or 6 weeks from ordering to receiving a spec-built wheelchair... but it is well worth the wait. There are several good makes: Ottobock, GTM, Quickie... I went for an Ottobock Ventus because it seemed to offer best value for money and was comfortable and good looking.

So, let's see some pictures. It's a nice cool sunny afternoon, so I went out in the garden and took some photos specially for this blog.

The Frame




White is my favourite colour because it reminds me of snow. That's why I chose a white frame. Plus I think it gives it a clean, streamlined look. It's a rigid frame, which means that it doesn't fold in half and has a fixed footplate. The choice of footplate will become clear later on. Without the wheels on, the frame weighs 8kg. It's made of aluminium so that it's as light as possible. Well, you can get carbon fibre ones that are even lighter but they were ridiculously expensive!

In the picture above, you can see a wire going along the base. If you pull that, the back folds down and clicks into position for putting it in the car. You'll also notice that in this picture I have no push handles. I wanted removable ones so that I can choose when to be pushed and when I want to be completely independent.

Push Handles


The push handles are dead easy to slot in and they are adjustable for height and can be folded in.

Armrests


The armrests are also adjustable. They can be raised and lowered or folded back out of the way. Really though, this is only useful when just sitting. When propelling, they get in the way a bit unless they're in the lowest position.

Brakes

I really wanted scissor lock brakes but made a mistake when ordering. At some point, I may upgrade but for now, they do the job well enough. I'm a bit naughty and don't use them as often as I should. The golden rule is to always have brakes on when getting in or out but I think of it more as a guideline than a rule.

Wheels and Castors

I've got 24" wheels with Marathon Plus tyres. My old chair had solid tyres which don't give much when going over lumps and bumps. These are better - more like bike wheels. The tyres are kevlar lined (so my youngest son calls this my bullet-proof chair) and in theory, they are almost puncture-proof. I'm not planning on testing this though.



The front castors are 5" and light up when they go round. It was difficult to get a photo of this. They flash red, white and blue. Okay, I admit, it's gimmicky but it does attract a bit of 'cool factor' attention and it helps me to be seen at night. Wheelchairs don't have lights, remember!

Freewheel




The finishing touch is called a freewheel. This connects to the footplate (hence the choice of footplate) and raises the front castors off the ground. Then, because it's a big wheel, you can easily go off-road. As anyone who uses a wheelchair will testify, uneven surfaces cause big problems. Snow, mud, grass, sand... all these things are a real pain in the bum (literally). The front castors tend to jam in and then you either stop dead or tip forward and potentially fall out. This freewheel means that mud, grass, etc are all doable again. I've only used it twice but when I took my little nieces to the park, it was great! I could chase them over the grass, push them on the swings and roundabout... I felt like a proper aunty again!

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