To coincide with Mobility Roadshow1, that started yesterday at the UK’s Silverstone motor racing circuit and runs until tomorrow, I wanted to bring you an independent review of the lightweight folding powered wheelchair that was revealed to readers of this blog three weeks ago, on May 5 (http://50shadesofsun.com/?p=2444).
The reviewer is Debbie Schwartz who lives in Cardiff with her Canine Partner (assistance dog) Ellie (http://50shadesofsun.com/?p=2524). Debbie already has a heavier electric wheelchair and wanted to try out the new one. Shaun Atkinson, of Better Products for Disabled People, took a chair to Cardiff for her to try but had no idea that she would be writing a review.
I met up with Shaun earlier today and viewed the smaller model – BPDP 06J.
Before I saw the chair I had several concerns, mainly around safety:
- being so light would it feel ‘sturdy’ or would it topple on uneven ground
- the battery is an ‘unknown’ so would it offer the power that a standard powerchair offers?
- being an (almost) ‘deckchair’ design would it be comfortable? Having no suspension, solid tyres and basic seating I was concerned about the support & comfort, certainly on uneven ground – suffering from chronic severe pair this was a major concern.
- is it really as easy to unfold/fold as shown?
- is it light enough to lift & fit into a standard car boot? – Is the battery easy enough to remove &/or change if required?
On seeing it the first impressions are good; it was a very neat little chair. It is only made from four different components – two motors, battery, frame/tyres and joystick. This I found quite reassuring because there are fewer things to go wrong; he even said that it doesn’t require servicing – with any fault the cause is obvious and he’d just send out the part! Each motor is attached via two screws so it’s as simple as that!
It opens and closes in one motion – I had a friend with me who tried both actions successfully and then tried to fit it in his car boot. He has the smallest boot I’ve ever seen! He has a VW Fox (smaller than a Polo). He observed that the chair was very easy to manoeuvre when folded and was light enough to pick up and lift over the high lip of his boot. The chair back can bend back to reduce the length of the folded chair, but this wasn’t necessary. The chair neatly fitted into the boot as you can see in the photo.
On trying the chair I found it to be quite powerful and offered a smooth ride after you’ve got the hang of the joystick – it was certainly more sensitive than the one on my main chair. It was raining at the time but had good grip; I took it up/down small curbs & there was no toppling, it did feel stable.
The battery was the most amazing thing! You simply remove it by taking it out of the frame, it is as simple as that! It was so light! A matter of lbs & not what I’m used to at all; batteries seem to have limited my life for some time now – in one way or another – now it can be removed and stored easily in a (large) handbag if required… It can be recharged like any other powerchair battery ie via a port on the joystick. Also, like every other chair, the motors can be ‘disconnected’ via two levers so that it can be pushed freely.
The chair was surprisingly comfortable. It comes with a seating cushion which is very basic, but I’m sure that you can change that with the cushion you would normally use. The back rest is material, but again was surprisingly supportive & comfortable.
The only criticism I might have about the chair – and it is being quite picky – is that the seat is physically quite low and this might not suit everyone2. I normally ride an Invacare Pronto3 & it’s seat was a good 6″ higher than the BPDP. In truth, it’s not going to affect me too much, being very short in stature, but if you’re taller then getting up might be more difficult. The arms easily move back meaning that you will easily fit it under a table – something my Invacare doesn’t do – but because of the low seat you still might not be comfortable at the table! I’m sure that if you had a more substantial cushion than the one provided then you would sit higher.
To sum it up, this really is everything I want from an ‘occasional’ chair. It will not take over from the Invacare because of the amount of off-roading I do day-to-day (dog walking), but to travel with the convenience seems second to none; I would say that it was the most practical chair I’ve tried.
Unfortunately, to truly know how it drives, you need to use it day to day & no-one is going to offer this opportunity for any chair; having tried the BPDP both inside & outside I was happy with the power & turning circle – again showing its versatility.
1 Mobility Roadshow 2016, May 26-28, Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, Northants NN12 8TN. Opening times: today Friday May 27, 10am-5pm, tomorrow Saturday May 28, 10am-4pm. Fully accessible and free admission! No ticket required.
2 The seat height of the BPDP 06J folding electric wheelchair is 470mm. Ian’s current chair is the Invacare Mirage which has a seat height of… 47cm – exactly the same – and he says he can easily get up even though he is 6 feet 2 inches (188cm) tall.
3 The Invacare Pronto is a powerchair, not a traditional wheelchair design.