Recent data shows that nearly a third of wheelchair users are frustrated at the ‘outdated’ designs of their devices and dealers have noted a trend for products that allow people to do more and go further. The demand for high-quality, ‘cool’ and innovative active wheelchairs is therefore on the up. Here, we present some of the top active wheelchairs on the market that can help dealers to meet the growing trend.
A stalwart brand of active wheelchairs, Sunrise Medical’s Quickie has rich heritage in this field. Its latest model in the range, the Krypton, claims to build on this legacy and is a result of the brand’s “pioneering development”, according to head of sales and marketing, Ryan Hirst.
Quickie’s founder, Marilyn Hamilton, designed the Quickie 1 in the 1980s. Bred out of frustration with the wheelchairs available at the time, she set out to create a chair made from lightweight hang-gliding materials and developed the first lightweight adjustable wheelchair to provide true energy efficiency. Thirty years on, the thirst for more energy efficient wheelchairs remains and the desire to use the latest technology is still in the brand’s DNA.
The company claims its carbon fibre models use technology unseen in wheelchairs before and its X-Braid technology ensures strength, rigidity and quality. The X-Braid technology creates a material that is designed to be stronger, stiffer and lighter than ever before.
Hirst says: “Sculpting wheelchairs is an art we have developed over the last 30 years. We understand that everyone has a different shape and size and we know how important it is to have a wheelchair that is bespoke to the individual user. With that in mind, there are over 10,000 configuration possibilities for each Krypton version (R&F).”
Hirst believes that there is great potential for dealers in the active wheelchair market. He says that the idea of ‘being disabled’ has changed significantly in recent times, with many users demanding a wheelchair that can keep up with their lifestyle.
“As a dealer, the Krypton gives you the opportunity to access a multitude of options for those who want to upgrade their wheelchair to a higher specification. Retailers who offer the Quickie range of active manual wheelchairs have access to a wide portfolio of premium products.
“Of course to properly prescribe these wheelchairs we require that our Quickie-authorised agents complete comprehensive training. At Sunrise Medical we offer free STEPS training courses for our dealer network. Like any other industry, clients are looking for the best level of service, knowledge, aftercare and general advice. Retailers that have all these and put them into practice will automatically unlock great potential in the active wheelchair market.”
Ottobock Avantgarde 4
The latest iteration of the innovative Avantgarde active wheelchair range, Ottobock presents its Avantgarde 4 model. This active chair is one of the lightest folding wheelchairs on the market and the additional option of a CL package offers an ultralight version for the most active wheelchairs. A single crossbrace saves weight, as does a welded rear wheel adapter and backrest. In addition, the ultralight seat and back upholstery as well as carbon side panels and Infinity Ultralight wheels keep the weight to a minimum. Rob Redgewell, retail business development manager for Ottobock UK, says that at just 8.7kg including its wheels, the Avantgarde 4 wheelchairs “excels in everyday challenges”.
He continues: “One of the best things about the chair is the way it is adaptable, coming in 17 attractive colours, and three different models that can each be customised to the person’s individual wishes.”
The good news for dealers in the market is that active wheelchairs are becoming ever more popular, corresponding with the increase in people getting involved in adaptive sports and activities, thinks Redgewell. He adds: “Perhaps the other thing to note is that the division between daily life and activity is becoming increasingly blurred. People live fast-paced lives balancing families, health and fitness, entertainment, careers and being part of their community. This means that a wheelchair absolutely has to be able to keep up with an active person.”
Redgewell sees the increasingly active population as an opportunity for dealers. He says that as people begin to use their wheelchairs more heavily they may be interested in new additions, or be keen to invest more than they previously had in their wheelchairs. Ottobock works with dealers including the likes of Draft and Bromakin, who provide bespoke, top-of-the-range wheelchairs to some of the country’s best athletes.
Karma Ergo Live
Known for its lightweight wheelchairs, Karma Mobility knows that appearance, function and weight are the three essentials when it comes to creating a market-winning active chair. Championing these three aspects, the Ergo Live, which first came onto the market around five years ago and has since been tweaked and honed, features a folding frame and Ergo seat, which is patented by Karma.
Its lightweight design is intended for optimum comfort and performance and allows the user to easily manage it on a day-to-day basis. When complete the chair weighs just 13kg but can be stripped down to 8.5kg for transport and storage. Adjustments to the rear wheel allow users to set the seat to ground height and control the performance of the wheelchair with ease.
General manager of Karma, Mark Duffield, explains that multiple wheel positions cater for different user abilities. Being an off-the-shelf wheelchair, he says, means retailers “do not have to worry about committing to a wheelchair they have measured someone for being slightly wrong or rejected”. The key opportunity active wheelchairs present to dealers, Duffield believes, is that they are an additional business element as long as users know where the equipment can be sourced from.
Motion Composites Veloce & APEX
Spearheading Motion Composites’ active wheelchair portfolio are the Veloce and APEX models. Their carbon frames allow for optimal adjustment and fit in an ultralight-weight package. Both chairs are made of state-of-the-art T700 high-modulus carbon fibre and are designed with attention to detail. Both chairs are designed to be eye-catching and functional and the company insists attention to detail is a priority, citing its integrated frame protector with a rubber grip on the top of the frame for safer, easier transfers.
Tina Roesler, who heads up international business development for Motion Composites, says all of the firm’s chairs are designed with propulsion efficiency in mind which is impacted by weight and the ability to dial in the chair for a specific user.
She notes that the desire of users of all ages to stay active and independent is helping to drive the active wheelchair market.
“At Motion Composites we believe in empowering wheelchair users and believe that everyone who uses a wheelchair should have the most efficient and well-designed equipment available. Active wheelchairs have been around a long time and users and clinicians know the benefits. I think that users, clinicians and caregivers are speaking up more often and demanding both form and function in their equipment. Everyone should have the opportunity to have a high quality of life and well-designed, and well-fitting wheelchairs allow for that.”
Like all specialist wheelchair suppliers, Roesler knows the potential for retailers dealing in the active equipment market. To set themselves apart from one another, she believes that mobility retailers should provide quality, functional equipment that is not sold on a basis of price-only.
Roesler adds: “While traditional funding has not kept up with advances in material and design, many people are looking for the most durable, functional and lightweight wheelchairs. Retailers have the opportunity to provide users with choice and allow them to decide if the investment is worth it. Funding alone should not dictate the choices we give to consumers. Research has proven, again and again, that ultra-lightweight, well fitted, and well-designed wheelchairs improve function and user satisfaction.”
Permobil power-assist device bridges power-manual wheelchair gap
While active wheelchair users are generally fit, even the most elite athletes know that continually pushing a chair can result in shoulder injuries for the user. Power-assist devices therefore are a useful and sought-after piece of kit that are increasingly being adopted by all kinds of end-users. Permobil’s answer to the need to bridge the gap between manual and powered wheelchairs, is the SmartDrive.
The SmartDrive MX2+ with PushTracker claims to be a “revolutionary” power-assist device that works on virtually any manual wheelchair on the market. Permobil is now looking to UK mobility dealers to help make the SmartDrive more widely and easily available for wheelchair users in Europe. The company has moved distribution from the US to its European distribution center which it says greatly improves its ability to serve its customers.
SmartDrive helps users to go up hills and ramps and anywhere where it is hard to push. It saves their energy so they can get about more on their own. Most importantly, it allows them to travel long distances without having to propel themselves. A single tap with the PushTracker wrist band activates cruise control with no need to push.
Many manual wheelchair users experience upper extremity pain. SmartDrive aims to combat this by greatly reducing the amount of times a user has to push in a day. It is designed therefore, to protect shoulders from wear and tear caused by self-propulsion and reduces the risk of tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome. What’s more, the SmartDrive can be easily mounted or removed with one hand, while sitting in the chair, thanks to its minimal weight and size. And its size, the company insists, does not impact on its performance or the maneuverability of the chair.