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.”
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.
“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.