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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Wheelchair changes hotelier’s life

Shaun Atkinson with Jeanette, his late sister.

Shaun Atkinson with Jeanette, his late sister.

Have you ever thought who is behind all these lightweight folding electric wheelchair blogs that we see regularly? Well, I took the liberty of checking him out.

Having been to hell and back with cancer, then suddenly losing his sister Jeanette, hotelier Shaun Atkinson decided it was time to make a change in his life.

Jeanette and Shaun had together developed the Bond Hotel, in Blackpool, UK. “She was my business partner and friend and when she died, aged just 53, I thought it’s time to move on and let my children take it to the next generation.”

For a long while Shaun was very low, but a turning point was on its way. “I had bought a folding wheelchair for my sister, so I put it on eBay and was amazed how it sold,” he said,

Over time, the man who had always been busy running a large and popular hotel, became bored. He explained: “I thought it was time to do something to help people again especially after spending my life organising transport for disabled. I thought to myself ‘Where was this folding wheelchair when i spent over a million pounds on coaches?’ I also used to fall over standard wheelchairs in the hotel as it was a favourite for groups of people with disabilities.”

Easy to fold, lift and store in tight spaces.

Easy to fold, lift and store in tight spaces.

So, there was his idea and the next thing Shaun was in China, talking with the manufacturers and requesting certain changes that he wanted on the chairs that he’d be bringing to the world.

“So far most have been bought by people with multiple sclerosis but they would suit any wheelchair user,” he said.

The chair certainly interested me. I already have an electric powered chair but it is big and heavy and not ideal for transporting. Shaun’s chairs are lightweight and fold easily to go in the back of an ordinary car but, like most people, I am always wary of buying online so I thought I would do some research and I was quite amazed at what I found.  It is a quality product with some great reviews. My mind is made up; this is the chair for me and I am definitely going to buy from this guy – now it is time to save up.

Although we have never met, and maybe never will, we have chatted via Facebook and he has been quite open about himself, his history and his wheelchair business.

Oh and don’t think Shaun runs his business, Better Products for Disabled People, for the money – because he doesn’t. “I have an income from the hotel,” he said, “I do this for a challenge and to make a difference. If I was not selling wheelchairs, I often wonder where I would be. Remember, ill health (cancer of the throat and face) stopped me. I loved the hotel but I could no longer carry on. I still have a problem talking although it gets better every week. I can’t even say Blackpool it sounds like ‘hapool’.

Lots of people say that Shaun should be made an MBE for his services to those with disabilities but he dismisses the idea. “They are for do-gooders who know nothing at all. In the hotel I had to deal with educated people including all major institutions, but while I admire the work they do, I believe they should get their hands dirty and meet real people like I did,” he said.

Shaun in Romania recently where he was giving demonstrations of his wheelchair.

Shaun in Romania recently where he was giving demonstrations of his wheelchair.

“Throughout my career, I have trained and trained myself, enabling me to bring staff training in the hotel to the very highest standard. Even the pot wash is trained.

“Talking of disabilities, right from autism and learning difficulties through strokes, ME, MS, Downs and many more, I have probably met more people with disabilities then anyone. In the hotel, I met at least 400 per week and I spoke to every one of them, no matter what disability, because everyone is a person,” he said.

“My life is not about money it’s about helping,” he added.

Personally, Shaun got married again a year ago. His wife is Turkish and he now divides his time between Turkey and the UK.

 

Shaun’s website: Better Products for Disabled People

Read this user’s review of the wheelchair

 

MSNT strapline copy

 

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Debbie’s independent review of folding electric wheelchair: ‘The most practical chair I’ve tried’

06 in boot

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.

Debbie writes:

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.

 

Notes:

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.

 

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All new folding electric wheelchair is light enough to be carried aboard some cruise ships’ tenders

Crew members prepare to assist a wheelchair user to board a tender to travel back to the ship.

Crew members prepare to assist a manual wheelchair user to board a tender to travel back to the ship.

If you are fond of cruise holidays, you are far from alone and if you have any form of disability, you can be assured that all cruise companies will do their very best to help you.

What has always been a problem for users of electric wheelchair, however, are those ports of call where the ship cannot moor alongside but has to drop anchor and ferry all passengers ashore using tenders.

To transfer from ship to tender and from tender to jetty, a wheelchair user has to be capable of a taking a few steps with help but also have a collapsible chair that can be easily lifted onto and off the tender. And, up to now, this has really meant using a manual one.

Now, though, things might change.

Some cruise companies don’t allow their staff to pick up electric chairs but others do as long as they don’t exceed their weight limit. For example, Princess Cruises allows its individual crew members to lift chairs weighing no more than 22kgs (49lbs).1

Well, being a wheelchair user myself, I am excited to have just found one potential answer to this problem. I am sure that there may be others but this is the one I discovered:06 blue

It is a lightweight folding electric wheelchair. It folds and unfolds in seconds and can be lifted easily when collapsed. This particular model has two batteries, together weighing 4kgs (9lbs) that can be slid out easily to be carried separately and, without them, the chair weighs just 21kgs (46.3lbs).

The model in question is the Chinese-made BPDP 06J available from Better Products for Disabled People and you can find all you need to know here. That company also sells another folding model, the 10J, which is heavier and more expensive.2

 

1Please remember to check your cruise company’s wheelchair requirements with respect to tendering.

2If you know of any other folding electric wheelchairs that meet these weight requirements, please let me know and I’ll update the details.

 

Please note: I am a person who likes to travel and enjoys cruising but needs to use a wheelchair. This blog post is for people in a situation similar to myself as well as family members and carers. It is purely for information and is not in any way commercial.

 

 

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