LATE 2015 / EARLY 2016

I've been using my new (Frontier V6) for a couple of months now and am thoroughly enjoying the experience. But I still have some very definite ideas as to how general power chair design can be improved and enhanced. I'm not a person that will stick my particular banner just on one particular brand. I would like to see improvements made across the board from all wheelchair manufacturers.

1. Cost of Ownership

I think that this is extremely high still (I'm not implying that the technology isn't good now, but because of economies of scale essentially costs remain high); all wheelchair manufacturers that are in the mainstream provide access to rehab seating for high clients such as myself.

What I would really like to know would be whether the main players in the wheelchair industry actually cooperate with each other as far as technology is concerned, collaborating on standards – and or standardisation of electronics.

I fully appreciate for a competitive advantage individual manufacturers of power chairs need to have differences. What I would like to see the is more cooperation that would bring the costs down so that more people would have the opportunity either:

1). Have more resources made available so that funders would be free to give people more choices in the wheelchairs which are provided by the state (I'm talking principally of the New Zealand example where at the time of writing New Zealand does get equipment like power wheelchairs funded through the health system. If the costs of wheelchairs was reduced by 10 or 15% that would also mean that add-ons and accessories would become cheaper as well hopefully?

I'd love to know exactly how many wheelchair manufacturers there are in the world presently (July 2016)? I do realise that rehab seating is specialist; but why does it have to cost so much for the individual components – comparing the power chair industry with the new car industry, cars are much more competitive in terms of what they give.

It's been told many times that in many people's eyes the disability community is a small market and that, because of economies of scale products like these wheelchairs are always going to be extremely expensive!

From my vantage point as any user of for decades plus, I see these points listed below as being the main stumbling blocks of any real change happening.

1). In the area of rehab seating there are relatively few people who really know their stuff. Linked to this physiotherapist's and occupational therapists might know about seating systems and the human body but, they don't have the time or resources to fully know the equipment they are prescribing for people.

2). The people who made you the maintenance on these wheelchairs have not spent days riding or driving around in them! Repairing something is way different then spending time acclimatising yourself to the intricate nature of how a device works in the real world. Perhaps in practical terms, it might be quite difficult to achieve; but my view is at least a couple of times a year there could be a roadshow where providers clinicians and repairers, could and should familiarise themselves with the various wheelchairs on offer!

It is my personal belief that the only way to reduce cost is to possibly reduce the number of players in the market or why not like in the car industry shear certain components to reduce costs? Maybe some of this goes on already? The difficulty is nobody talks (the manufacturers I mean).

Questions that won't be answered anytime soon

1. If most of the electronics used by many of the manufacturers are sourced from a few suppliers, why do they remain so expensive?

2. Where would I go as an end client to find out about durability tests carried out on many of the different brands of power chairs?

3. About 6 years ago there was a wheelchair comparison Internet broadcast sponsored by the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation which pitted the main wheelchair manufacturers up against one another (albeit in quite an informal way) against one another. They had representatives from these companies promoting their models, but also critically they had even to consumers comparing features. I'm sure that with a little effort and forethought after so many years another comparison project can be put in place?

Really, I truly appreciate that with something as complex as power wheelchairs and specifically rehab seating people do need some medical help and advice but there is so much choice available for both power wheelchairs and seating options cost should not be the only factor governing what people receive.

Improvements and enhancements To Wheelchair Design

1). I would like to see an improvement to the LED lighting packages that manufactures make available. I would love to see the diodes for the lights loaded into the bodywork (not just by some manufacturers, but by all).

2). Fully weatherproof wheelchair control mechanisms, that can withstand extremely heavy rain – and in fact all components needs to be as weatherproof as possible! I would love to know from someone who does know – what are the tests done to test various components?

3). Lighter battery technology developed, with improved range. I can fully appreciate that at the time of writing ( July 2016) that lithium battery technology while providing some useful improvement in range still seems rather dangerous to me depending on how it is implemented and what manufacturer is used?