|Heading out to test the Renegade wheelchair at Mt. Tom.|
It is harder for some people to adjust to a different way of doing something familiar that new equipment entails. This alone can be an obstacle to success. Plan to spend some time just getting used to new motions the body may need to make to adapt, in an easy environment before expecting instant results. Some may get the hang of it immediately, take off, and really be able to test the equipment. Many will find starting slowly and getting some good instruction by someone who really knows the equipment most productive. In some cases having such an instructor also using the equipment so that they can demonstrate technique is essential.
With the FreeWheel, I found that the first wheelchair I tested it on was well-suited to show the dramatic effect the FreeWheel can have on making travel over level but irregular terrain much easier. If your wheelchair has solid, small, narrow wheels on the front castors, you'll have that experience too, since those castors can be quite a hindrance at the smallest blip in the landscape. If you have good sized, inflated castor wheels, as two individuals did that I had test the FreeWheel, you may not gain a significant enough effect to inspire continued use. I found this product challenging to attach correctly to the particular wheelchair I had, so it can be more technical to set up than one might expect, yet others may be able to attach quite quickly and go, as advertised. The FreeWheel is relatively affordable and the designer is available to consult on attaching and using, 2 big pluses with a product that can expand possibilities in urban and suburban environments.
The Renegade Wheelchair is a serious commitment to purchase and I would highly recommend testing first. This chair can really open up the natural landscape for some, who may take it "for miles" to quote one user, while others may find it too strenuous to get far, and still others may use it to build their strength and endurance. The chair is heavy for some at 50 pounds, but the trade-off comes in the amazing stability of the design, so that cross slopes are comfortably navigated. It may take awhile to learn the techniques and use the chair most effectively. I like the way you can rest in it easily if you get tired going up a hill. The designer of the Renegade is also accessible for consultation and will customize the chair to suit your particular needs, which includes a rear outrigger to prevent tipping backwards and multiple types of attachments for different items you might like to use while out in the woods. With this one, so much depends on the user and the type of terrain they plan to access. Check out our recent testing on YouTube!
The first person I tested SideStix with turned out to prefer straight arm crutches, so I learned that this is a significant factor. If you already use forearm crutches, you are probably a better candidate for SideStix. My first tester couldn't do their preferred swing gait with SideStix, which slowed him down. The designer did inform me that the rotating/articulating tip may not be needed for those with a four point gait - such as my test person with spina bifida had - because energy is lost with forward movement with two legs. Since SideStix are designed by someone with one leg, if you have one leg you may get optimum use from this design. Not being a crutch user and having a tendency toward upper body inflammation, I gained a lot of appreciation for the physical adaptations made by those who walk with crutches when I tested SideStix myself. We are still looking for people who use forearm crutches to continue our SideStix testing and look forward to using them with snow attachments in our winter programs at the Weston Ski Track in February. If you'd like to take advantage of trying our adjustable demo set sooner, give me a call at 413-545-5758.
Thanks to Brenda Davies, Dave Winn, Jim Brooks, Bob Adams, Charlie Croteau, Dave Lee, Gigi Ranno, Tom McCarthy and Sue Tracy for helping us test and better understand these exciting products. Thanks to John Nunan of Alpha One for the YouTube video of our Renegade field test at Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke.