Saturday, June 27, 2015

Build a wheelchair

Here's a bit of a pickle. With my wheelchair bar broken and the back that it supported, sooner rather than later I was going to need a new one. The high end manufactures that I've known of were all European: Panthera was Swedish, probably with the most expensive models on the market, my current chair- Kuschall was custom built in Switzerland, and my mom found an Italian maker- Offcarr and she really liked the color schemes on some of their offerings. All of these were either carbon fiber or titanium with lengthy catalogues of measurements, extras and options. It seems that ordering one of these is an ambitious undertaking. A lot of numbers and choices and I still don't even know which material is better. Back home I could just walk into a specialized equipment store and look at a model. We were lucky with my first Kuschall and what turned me on to the brand- we were able to get a pre-built exhibit show unit for cheap. That chair was of course destroyed when the city bus ran into me- and I think the titanium saved my life. So, as the city was paying for a replacement- we went for a top of the line version of what I had before. This time personalized and built just for me. It really feels that the Europeans are on the forefront of luxury wheelchair experience. Light, fast, stable, durable and extremely mobile.   I could probably still get one through an agent in US, but that would add to the price and wait time. I haven't heard of any American offerings, so I reached out to the man that took the measurements last time. He recommended Tilite- a high end brand I've never heard of before,  but even with it being local it takes ten days to build and seven to deliver. And that's assuming no parts are on back order. Whatever we decide, there will  be some  wait involved. While you can say that all titanium carbon fiber chairs are comparable in their class, I don't think I have that many choices from the US. A few years after I got my chair, Kuschall closed their US offices. I believe the parent company decided focus on uniform industry solutions and leave the custom built market entirely. Why shouldn't I have a nice things just because I'm in a wheelchair, and why can't the nice shiny thing be my wheelchair? We are so used to think of wheelchairs as one size fits all big, grey and bulky embodiment of despair and depression, why can't a wheelchair express my personality? A high class chair is like a Cadillac in my book, nothing to get sad about and the one I have now is bright and yellow. I wonder, why isn't there much of a market for those people with disabilities who just like other groups want to appreciate the finer things? I know that sitting in mine made me feel  good not only because of how comfortable it was and how I could maneuver it with ease, but how it looked. And all of those completely unnecessary extras, like a clock above my front wheel made it even more fun. I like it to be presentable and I like to ride in style. And I know it's something you typically associate with disability gear and mobility equipment.

   But it's going to be a while before we decide, measure and order something. All the better ones are made to order. Who knew that deciding on a wheelchair would be so complicated. My friends are now trying to patch up my old one as my new one will not simply arrive tomorrow. We've decided to put a stainless steel pipe around the broken bar. As luck may have it, it's now too big for the back support clasp to wrap around. Yet another part needs to be replaced in this fixed up, modified countless time  faithful accessory that has served me for ten years. .

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