Travelling day-to-day is the most important travel of all so when we needed to choose a new electric wheelchair for BJ I felt great pressure to make the right choice. It was delivered last week and I thought I would share our experience in the hope it may help others with future decisions. Everyone’s needs vary but here are the features we like on the new chair.
When BJ was younger I was concerned the size of the electric wheelchairs would swamp him. I wanted people to see BJ before the wheelchair. I thought it was important that he was the dominate feature when people looked in his direction. The new chair is definitely large but now that he is an adult it seems unavoidable. I hope that his smile will ensure people still see the person before the chair.
The chair we chose is a Quantum Edge which has been funded by Enable. We were on the waiting list for just over a year but we started the process in advance knowing we would have a wait.
Comparing BJ’s old electric wheelchair with the new one is like comparing a Holden to a Porsche. The first electric wheelchair was perfect for BJ’s needs at the time and has really lasted well but the Quantum comes with all the bells and whistles including the ability to tilt. I’m not sure how often BJ will use this function but I have seen many of his friends go through surgery and the ability to tilt made a big difference during their recovery.
The contoured back rest is one of my favourite features. It gives BJ a little bit of support and will help decrease some of his movement while he is using the controller. He has far more stability when he is seated well but he didn’t need as much support as thoracics offer.
This contoured cushion has BJ sitting still and comfortably. I love seeing him so steady as this will help his with his driving.
There was a lot of time spent working out what would be best for BJ in the way of controls. We couldn’t find the perfect solution but we are hopeful our choice is going to work for him. We have swapped the attendant control to the front of the chair while BJ is getting used to the chair. This gives him less to learn. It also has less that can be accidentally knocked with his extra movement. Deejay Medical who supplied the chair suggested a jelly bean switch (see arrow pointing to side of chair) for BJ to use as the on and off switch in the beginning. We hope that he can eventually work the small switches beside the hand control knob but at the moment he is working well with the jelly bean switch.
The wheelchair users controller is currently being used as the attendant control at the back of the wheelchair. I am a little dazzled by all the features and I’m not actually sure what is more dangerous, BJ having the control or me! I highly recommend anyone getting an electric wheelchair for a child to consider getting attendant controls. BJ still tires of using the control himself and we can take over without bending over and risking our backs using the wheelchair user’s control. Most children learning to drive are slow and it is great if they can have a rest and if need be you move a little quicker or if an area is a bit of an obstacle and they are still learning you are able to take over.
The foot plate was another feature that required quite a bit of discussion. BJ’s constant movement means he is tough on equipment. He uses the foot plate on all his wheelchairs to step back on to and shift himself back into his seat. However, we also wanted to be able to move it out of the way if necessary. It was decided that a single piece was needed which lifted to the side and is attached by a pin on the right hand side. So far so good. The castor wheels on the edge of the foot plate keep it from damaging walls. Something we could have used on BJ’s first chair when he was learning to drive.
If you have read any of our previous posts you may already know that we do not have a van. BJ’s wheelchair needs to fit into a Honda Odyssey and Holden Adventra. A key part to this working was that the wheelchair had some ability to be more compact. The Quantum’s back folds which is perfect for this. Due to its weight a ramp is necessary but the wheelchair can fit in the back of both cars.
It is early days but so far we are very happy with our choice and it will be a good addition to BJ’s manual wheelchair allowing him more independence with less effort.
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