Wheelchairs: Love to Have, Hate to Need


Wheelchairs, scooters and I have a love/hate relationship. Not hate the actual chair, just the need to use one, hate the fact that my mobility is so badly affected by multiple sclerosis that walking, with a walking aid, any further than 10 to 15 yards is impossible without sitting down.

From that, you will probably realise the reason that various ways of getting around have played a part in my life in the last few years and will continue doing so.

Let’s start with scooters. There have been a couple. I remember using one for the first time, the feeling of independence was incredible. The first one bought from a mobility aids store was supposedly a mini sized model. It was certainly the smallest one on display but it was heavy and was difficult to lift into a car.

I next bought a smaller model that easily came apart to pack into a car but its batteries just weren’t up to the job, so that one was a second failure.

Next it was time to give wheelchairs a chance. I’ve had two manual ‘self-propelled’ chairs but as MS means I have very little strength on my left side, if trying to propel myself, the chair goes in left handed circles; forget a straight line. That meant my wife Lisa had to push me and, while that never bothered her, it meant that my independence was curtailed.

j-silver10jMy doctor back in the UK recommended that I have a motorized chair ad, in due course, it was available. It was supposedly foldable but to achieve that two heavy and bulky batteries had to be disconnected and removed and lots more. In fact, to collapse that chair took about 40 minutes with a similar time to put it together again. Simply impossible without meeting the expense of getting a vehicle especially adapted to carry it without collapsing the chair.

More recently, though, I have bought one of the lightweight, foldable wheelchairs being widely advertised online by Better Products for Disabled People. Here, pictured above, is the wheelchair I bought,

Finally, I have found the perfect match for my needs. It folds and unfolds in matters of seconds. It is compact enough when folded to go in the back of our car along with the weekly shopping and is light enough, just, for my wife to lift into and out of the car.


Hey, that’s me in my new wheelchair in the HSCT centre in Moscow, with Dr Fedorenko and assistant Anastasia.

It has two sleek batteries that slide into the chair frame and is brilliant in use. It is easy to control, has the tightest of turning circles, in fact it can turn around in its own length, and can travel so far without recharging.

A couple of weeks ago, I took the chair with me to Moscow. As I was travelling alone, it made my life easy. Whether it was negotiating city streets, a bus station, hours in an airport waiting for the time for my flight, or travelling through the Moscow hospital’s maze of corridors, the new wheelchair coped and, eventually getting home, it still had more than half its charge. And no, I didn’t recharge it while away from home.

All in all, in my opinion, the BPDP wheelchair is the very best for my needs.

To see if it would suit you, just contact BPDP through its website or talk to Shaun Atkinson on Facebook.

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ian profile

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

Choosing the right wheelchair for your needs

invacare-mirage-396x266_edited product-list-xs2-alum-w300h330               Left, a standard non-folding electric wheelchair and, right, a self-propelling manual chair.

To walk no further than 10 to 15 yards, the way multiple sclerosis affects me means that a walking stick or a cane is required. At the end of that, I need to sit and take a break. And even that short distance cannot be repeated over and over again.

So, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that a wheelchair is required if I need to move any greater distance than those few yards. But choosing the right wheelchair is not as easy as it might first appear as the choice is enormous.

The choice is extremely personal as the chair must suit your own individual needs.

In my case, it started off with a self-propelled manual chair, the type with the large rear wheels that are designed to be pushed by the wheelchair user. However, there was a problem that really should have anticipated. Multiple sclerosis has taken away most of the strength and dexterity of the left side of my body and so using both hands to propel the wheelchair is impossible. Going around in left hand circles? No problem there. Going straight or turning right? Forget it.

So a manual chair, for me, means the presence of a carer – a role lovingly performed by my wife, Lisa, with no complaints. But independence? Forget it.

An electric wheelchair was suggested and freedom of movement and independence was restored. Well, restored  up to a point.

You see, using it from home is no problem but if you want to use it elsewhere the electric chair has to be loaded into a car and unloaded at the other end and visa versa for the return trip. And, because of its size, it won’t fit in a normal car. I have a seven-seater MPV (or minivan) to carry mine.

bpdp06 foldedNow, though, lightweight folding electric chairs have started to become more widely known and are a fraction of the weight of traditional models, can be folded in seconds with batteries still on board, and simply lifted in and out of a standard car.

They are just fantastic and I am looking forward to being able to get one.

bpdp06From checking out the market, I’d say that Better Products for Disabled People (BPDP) is offering one of the best deals at the moment. It has two chairs to choose between and many different colours. The prices are reasonable, with the smaller one at £1758.50 [GBP] (seat width 400mm, weight 25kg and capacity 120kg) and the larger one at £1938.51 (seat 480mm, weight 27kg and capacity 180kg) – and that includes free delivery anywhere in the world.