Monday, May 10, 2010

All Terrain Innovations for Crutch and Wheelchair Users

Two exciting and relatively new products have come to my attention recently, designed by two separate people with similar last names.

Sidestix are the first sports crutch designed for people who want to explore all types of terrain, from sandy beaches and rugged trails to rocky summits and snowy slopes.

The FreeWheel is an add-on front wheel that lengthens the wheel-base of an ordinary wheelchair and provides enhanced travel on all terrain.

Both of these products are designed by people with disabilities who could wait no longer to get out there. That is one of the things I love about the world of adaptive recreation equipment - so often products are user-designed to improve quality of life.

Sarah Doherty, a Massachusetts native now living in Canada, lost a leg at age 13 when struck by a drunk driver while on her bicycle. Already an athlete and outdoors person, Sarah wasn't willing to let go of her adventurous pursuits. She became a more avid hiker as well as an occupational therapist, and feels it is her calling to create better crutches to improve people's lives. Sidestix have been under development since 2004 and were launched this year as a product for sale, after extensive testing by Sarah herself in places like Mt. McKinley and Mt. Kilamanjaro.
Sidestix feature interchangable tips for different types of terrain and shock absorption to protect joints. The tip also pivots like an ankle, swiveling to maintain contact with the ground while the crutch user swings their weight. Already proven on various extreme trails, it looks like it has great potential for sports too. The first SideStix produced are selling for $900 - that may be the
first hurdle for crutch users to overcome in reaching for new horizons - but the investment is no doubt well worth it.

The FreeWheel Wheelchair Attachment is one we'll be testing soon in DCR's Universal Access Program. Designed by Pat Dougherty of Garden City, Idaho, it greatly enhances the range of a typical wheelchair to include trails, grass, curbs, rough road and more. Pat is quadriplegic and confesses he created these so he could chase his kids around the backyard! We are excited to be able to hike with people using their own chairs, instead of our outdated Terra Trek wheelchairs, especially in moderate terrain where the Terra Treks aren't fully needed.
I spoke with Pat on the phone recently and found out that the FreeWheel also makes it much easier for those pushing their friends and family in wheelchairs, as well as for independent users. Pat says he has tons of letters" from happy customers who are thrilled to get into previously off-limits places and feel its the best thing they've spent money on in years. People are getting well beyond their backyards with the FreeWheel! At $499 plus $50 shipping, it certainly beats the price of an all terrain wheelchair!
Photos courtesy of SideStix and FreeWheel.


Pamela said...

What wonderful resources! What a terrific service you provide!

Marcy said...

A little follow up: We have found the FreeWheel is best set up and used for one individual's chair, however we are still learning how to switch it easily from one chair to another to serve people who come to programs - still waiting for the right siguation to try it on a few different chair styles in the same day and learn to make quick adjustments.

Scott Pellet of Bike-on loves it on his chair and demonstrated its effectiveness at our Accessible Recreation Fair in Boston across a flat grassy area with some irregularities.

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