Last weekend I attended the Spinal Cord Injuries Australia Independence Expo so today I’m sharing my equipment review. Although I see lots of the same stands at the different expos I attend, this expo stood out for the positive message it sent. It really gave me a feeling that just about anything is possible as far as access and recreation. I will admit that many of the modifications or equipment are expensive but there was a real sense that people are embracing making access and an independent life possible. Keep in mind that this expo’s main audience is people with spinal cord injuries, so the solutions wouldn’t necessarily suit those with complex physical disabilities but the variety and ingenuity of the equipment still provides hope that anything is possible.
ZOOM ALL TERRAIN
Wheelchairs are a practical way to get around suburbia but when the terrain gets rough that tends to be the end of the road for regular chairs. That’s why the Zoom pictured below caught my eye.
The Zoom is described as “a light, small and electric all-terrain vehicle for recreational use. It has a permanent symmetrical 4-wheel drive designed for use in rough terrain. The patented frame design ensures that all four wheels stay in contact with the ground regardless of the type of surface. This provides continuous 4-wheel drive performance under all conditions. As the Zoom is only 176 pounds you can roll it around by hand and two men can lift it into a SUV, pick-up truck or small trailer but we recommend using the ramps
Zoom has a maximum speed of 28km per hour (12,6 mph) and is suitable for use off-road.” The price of the Zoom is between $19,000 – $22,000 depending on features.
For more information head to the Specialised Wheelchair Company website.
HAVE WHEELCHAIR WILL TRAVEL
There seems to be no limit to the imagination of the guys at PME in regards to ways to travel with a wheelchair.
There was a bike with a wheelchair mount.
A hoist that had been added to a boat to allow access.
The ABI Loader also from PME allows a one press to access a wheelchair from the boot of a car. The driver presses a button, waits 25 seconds for the boot to open and unload the wheelchair and deliver it to the driver’s side door ready for transfer. The wheelchair remains in the car safe from the weather. There are also no height restriction issues like those encountered by roof mount hoists.
The installation of the ABI Loader is dependent on wheelchair and vehicle compatibility. The price is around $18,000.
For more information about the ABI Loader, the bike mount, boat access and the off-road vehicle mount please check the PME website.
EAGLE PASSENGER LIFTERS
John McGuiness was at the expo to demonstrate how a wheelchair user can be transferred onto an aircraft using the Eagle Passenger Lifters.
Martin Heng from Lonely Planet offered to assist with the demonstration and commented on how much more comfortable it is to use the Eagle Lifters rather than be manually lifted into an aircraft seat. When booking your flight ask your airline if there is an Eagle Lifter available at the airports you will be using for your trip.
For more information about the Eagle Passenger Lifters you can visit the website here.
I was recently asked about restraints for cars which are suitable for people who undo their own seatbelt whilst the car is in motion. For that reason it peaked my interest when I saw Mobility Engineering’s products.
The perspex cover, pictured above, simply slips over the seat belt buckle and once the seat belt is clicked into place the only way to remove the cover is by inserting a key into a small slot. The company also provide stickers to alert people in an accident that there is a passenger who may need assistance to get out of the vehicle as well as a seatbelt cutter in case of emergency. The buckle cover is currently $55.
For a person needing both security and a little more support Mobility Engineering has several options in harnesses. They retail for around the $1200 each mark. The blue vest has a magnet securing system which ensures the harness cannot be tampered with and only undone with a magnetic device which releases the clasps.
For any further information please contact Mobility Engineering or check the website.
BLUE BADGE INSURANCE
Those following this page regularly will know that I have been known to have a bit of a rave about the importance of travel insurance but I have to admit to never thinking about scooter or wheelchair insurance. That’s what made me stop at the Blue Badge Insurance stand. I figured I should find out in what circumstances I’d need wheelchair or scooter insurance. Two points stood out. One, the fact that if BJ broke someone’s ankle while using his electric wheelchair and they sued we would have to pay unless we have insurance. Secondly, should we travel with BJ’s electric wheelchair we would be covered overseas for accidental damage, third party injury and property for 21 days (excludes third party injury in USA and Canada). Good to know before you go!
You can read more about this insurance and exactly what it covers on the Blue Badge website here.
WHEELIES VAN RENTAL’S EXPANSION
We were thrilled to hear that Wheelies Van Rentals are expanding their fleet to have a cars available in Cairns from 1 May 2016.
I wrote about our experience with Wheelies here and about suitable accessible accommodation in the Cairns area here. Cairns has so much to offer in the way of accessible experiences, it is fantastic for people to now be able to hire an accessible vehicle to get around.
You can contact Wheelies Van Rentals here.
GOGET ACCESSIBLE VEHICLE NOW IN SYDNEY
Goget are excited to introduce Philip the Carnival. Just like all their other KIA Carnivals, Philip can carry up to 8 people comfortably. But Philip isn’t your average people mover – he’s been modified for wheelchair access.
Philip the Carnival will be available for booking by all GoGet members, whether you require the use of the wheelchair lift or not. You can find out more about the service here.
The products and services listed on this page have not sponsored this post. I love finding products that I think may assist others.
Please contact the companies listed to find out more detailed information.
LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST
MARTIN HENG FROM LONELY PLANET – ACCESSIBLE TRAVEL TALK
One of the main reasons for me attending the SCIA Independence Expo was to hear Martin Heng speak about accessible tourism. Martin has achieved so much in producing e-books and paving the way for other wheelchair users to travel.
I recently wrote posts about travelling with a wheelchair and booking an accessible holiday. I was keen to hear what Martin had to add. Many of the points were similar but there were additional points which Martin shared which I thought were valuable –
Planning is key.
Decide what your goals are for your holiday. What do you want from the holiday?
Consider using a travel agent.
Take travel insurance and disclose existing medical conditions (you can read my post on this here.)
Avoid connecting flights and if you do have one, make sure you have a minimum of 90 minutes, or your chair may not make your connecting plane.
Some airlines require a medical fitness to fly form to be completed by a doctor. Emirates is one such airline. Check if this is required. I have more information about airlines here.
On long-haul flights beware of pressure sores. If you take an air cushion deflate it slightly to allow for the cabin pressure.
Ask flight crews for additional cushions or blankets to rest your arms on, or to make you more comfortable.
Avoid accessing the toilets. Use a bottle on long haul flights. This can be done discreetly.
Get your wheelchair checked before you travel and locate repairers at your destination prior to travel just in case you have a problem.
When booking a hotel room, don’t just ask if it is accessible, ask specific questions like the height of the bed if you need a hoist to fit under it, circulation room and ask for a photo to be sure it will suit your needs.
In developing countries the infrastructure is just not there. Pay to get things done. Martin used the example that in India there were no accessible vans so he paid passers by to lift his chair into van. He was happy as it didn’t cost much and provided a solution and the helpers were happy with some extra cash.
As a traveller with a disability your story will open conversations. People will be interested. Capitalise on the difference between you and every other tourist. The kindness of strangers is wonderful.
Don’t feel limited by your disability, however minor or severe. Don’t get hung up on limitation.
In Martin’s opinion Singapore is the most accessible destination and the food is the best too!
You can read more about Lonely Planet’s Accessible Travel online resources guide here (it’s free to download!)
So, that’s my round-up of things which caught my eye at the 2016 SCIA Independence Expo. There were loads of other services, equipment and talks over the two days.
I recommend checking out expos when they come to a location near you. Although overwhelming in size, they are great thought provokers.
If you see a piece of equipment at an expo you think is interesting, take a pic and send it to me. I’d love to share it with others.
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