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Trade show

Show Your Ability 2017 Report

Recently I attended the show which was a showcase for all disability related products available in New Zealand. Among these products were a number of wheelchair vendor's (power wheelchair vendor's) that I was interested in having a look at.

I spoke to these companies:

1 Invacare.

2. Permobil.

3. Sunrise Medical.

4. TA Services.

5. Pride Mobility (Quantum Rehab).

6. Magic Mobility.

I will start talking about number 6 (Magic Mobility):

They had all their wheelchairs on display, including the Compact 40 and 73 models plus the Frontier V6 and X8 models, plus the frontier V4. The compact 40 and 73 are smaller versions of the frontier V6 (by this I mean they have the same suspension set ups. The numbers 40 and 73 denote the ratings of the batteries fitted. I'd been to several of these shows over about 5 or 6 years at least and never before had magic mobility had or their models on display (I'm talking about the New Zealand agents); because previously they had only focused on the frontier V6 and the X8 mainly; but I was told the reason why all the models were bought in was there was an increased interest in the complete range.

These smaller compact models were significantly smaller than the traditional Frontier and Hybrid models.

While at the booth I really pressed the question regarding the use of lithium batteries!

I was told "yes magic mobility has tested lithium batteries on all their products, the two issues are:

A). "There is not an easy method to accurately measure battery range, they needed to fit an external metre" I'm not exactly sure from memory whether that was exactly the way that they phrased it but that was the gist of it.

B). Also they mentioned along with other vendor's that lithium batteries are significantly lighter, and in their view would cause a problem altering the balance of the wheelchair by making it significantly lighter! Personally I don't feel that this would be as much of a problem as they care to admit although, somebody better qualified than myself would be able to talk to this?

C). That lithium batteries just tended to stop dead without any discharge curve (I think this has been talked about at some length on other posts on this website.

I would be interested John whether you have some accurate method via a gauge on your wheelchair about measuring lithium battery usage (or whether you just know it instinctively)?

Quantum Rehab

I am very sceptical about this brand because of what I've read about it on a couple of websites (yours John and various troubles that people have had on Mark A Smith's website forum). So I was very interested to see these wheelchairs up close and to ask some questions particularly about the Ilevel function. I was met with a particularly enthusiastic and engaging representative. Looking at the wheelchairs up close the build quality appeared to be no better or no worse than anybody else's. While I was at the quantum rehab booth there was a different kind of control input being demonstrated that used an iPad type input device! Various members of the public and family members of people with disabilities plus therapists were trying to drive this :-). Surprisingly they didn't really appear to do a particularly good job. I think had I been given a turn I would have made a better fist of it. But it was interesting to me because it offered an alternative drive method for people with very limited motor control, and at least it would get them out and about.

The quantum rehab wheelchairs are the preferred wheelchair that is given to people through our social welfare system. They made sure that they had a big sign saying that this wheelchair was very easily government funded and has been alluded to before they were speaking directly to therapists and family members who would possibly recommend their products. I prefer vendor is that don't focus on just one group.

Before I got my current TA IQ, I told the therapist that I would not accept a quantum rehab wheelchair under any circumstances; this new crop seemed quite well put together but I think I wouldn't necessarily like it apart from the Ilevel which means the speed inhibitor is taken off :-)

They were very shiny with lots of plastic :-).

TA Services

These are the people that make my TA IQ from Denmark! Of all the wheelchair distributors I spoke to they seemed to be the most uninformed unfortunately. When I got the TA in 2014 I had my centre hubs and springs powder coated bright orange :-). Just because I could! The staff on this particular booth commented how clean my wheelchair was and even though it was approaching three years old it looked almost brand-new. To me it's so important to keep your wheelchair in good condition, I didn't think that it was so remarkable that I would want to keep it clean? Like many of the other booths they had a variety of wheelchairs including rearwheel drive, mid wheel drive, front wheel drive, and paediatric.

Sunrise Medical

I was interested in the Quickie 710 because of its so-called different suspension spider track and the many options you could get with it. I think if it had been readily available when I got the TA IQ I would have gone with the 710 instead just because I think the suspension seems to be much superior. In the latest design along with the articulating spider track arms they have included an extra spring, I think to make the whole thing just a little bit more rigid I'm not sure I can't remember.

It's interesting that all these companies are basically chasing the same market; there is very little innovation truly and I can't understand why they insist on making wheelchairs heavy (well I know why they do it) to make the wheelchairs less likely to tip in different scenarios – but my argument is if you are experienced and physically able enough you don't put the wheelchair in scenarios that they would tip over. By reducing the weight of a wheelchair by 15 or 20% you would possibly be able to increase the amount of kilometres or miles you could get on a charge?

I've been using power wheelchairs for a very long time since the early 1970s when I was a very small child, and in those days wheelchair bodies were no more then a deck chair with batteries and a couple of motors attached the brand I used was called a BEC 40 ( there was another one during my teenage years called which I ran for over 16 years from memory and when I was in my early 20s around 1988 I graduated to a Bec 80 which was like a bigger version but no advance these wheelchairs had absolutely no rehab seating of any kind and were just like foldable deck chairs ypu would take to a beach (made of aluminium very easy to flip over backwards (trust me I used to do that a lot).

But I really don't believe in the making power wheelchairs as heavy as they do now, I think it's just overkill.

I can understand with my Frontier V6 that perhaps some weight could be an advantage (I remember in the early days of wheelchair use they drastically had reduced the weight to increase battery range) I think possibly health and safety has gone mad?

Permobil

I was delighted to see this brand properly represented this year in New Zealand. I had the most interesting conversation with some technical responses to my questions thrown in. Obviously the gentleman was not just a sales rep but had some real knowledge compared to the others. This made for an enjoyable interaction where I didn't fall asleep :-)

The build quality of the wheelchair is on display seem to be quite a bit higher than many of the others:

Both the F3 and the F5 plus F5 stander were on display along with the M 300 and various other models I think. But what I was really interested in was the possible introduction of lithium. The guy I was talking to parroted basically what everybody else had said but in a little bit more detail, highlighting the need to add weight to a wheelchair if lithium was fitted. He said the only thing stopping it wasn't safety but the ability to accurately measure battery usage and not have the lithium batteries stop dead when charge depleted suddenly. He told me that lithium was not that far away. That was far more than I got from anybody else.

Invacare

Surprisingly I also got a very good response from them! I didn't expect this and in some respects it was the most interesting. In the New Zealand market we have the TDX range of wheelchairs but I don't think or at least I haven't seen the storm series mentioned or referred to anyway.

The guy I was talking to was telling me that next year there is going to be a whole new range of models. That Invacare have now put the descent decree behind them and are manufacturing again (at least I think that's what he said). And that they are committed to the brushless motor technology and they are made or are made significant improvements to these this which will be released next year. I remember some time ago Mark a Smith mentioned on his website that 2018 was going to be a significant breakthrough year for new products across the whole industry? What that really means is anybody's guess.

Having previously owned a TDX 5 which had brushless motors I know they had their faults but there was nothing that could compete with it for the battery range using conventional lead acid batteries.

For what it was I really enjoyed the show.

Cheers,

Malcolm.