Pirate 2's Richard Perks looks at mobility scooters and walkers.
Mel: Where should we go next?
Host: Let’s move onto scooters and walkers.
Mel: Okay, well, scooters obviously is quite a bit part of our sales. We are part of the Motability Scheme, so anyone wishing to buy a scooter through that scheme, in other words pay a weekly amount out of their benefit payments, we’re the people to come to for the assessment and for the product choice. You can see we’ve got quite a range here, and probably the biggest thing you notice is the size - from a very small boot scooter right up to this mean machine here, which again travels at 8 miles per hour, looks it could be the size of a small car. It can be a bit scary in the wrong hands.
Host: Again, you’ve got them for different uses. So I see on your midrange here, you’ve got the baskets for shopping. On the larger ones, I guess that’s more for as you say travelling on the road and going for maybe larger distances.
Mel: Yeah, and some people do add to that as well, with trailers. Some people might use something like this on a golf course, so they have a special thing on the back to carry their golf clubs. Yeah, we can provide anything.
Host: Talk me through some of the smaller ones you have here.
Mel: The very small ones, they are classed as boot scooters, which means they actually come apart, generally into five pieces - four or five pieces, which means people can, if they are physically able, they can load it into the vehicle much easier. Would you like me to show you one taking it apart?
Host: Yes, absolutely. So we’ve got one here.
Mel: And we’ll start with the seat. The seat comes off.
Host: That was a very simple procedure there. I think you literally just pressed a button there.
Mel: I just pulled a lever and pulled it off.
Host: There you go. Now the seat is attached and we’ve got the base now, and the front steering column.
Mel: Yeah, and probably the heaviest part would be the battery, which is down here. That just pulls off as well. You might just want to feel the weight of that.
Mel: So you can see again why assessment can be important. Somebody may not physically be able to lift that. Then you have got a lever here, which separates these two parts.
Host: So now we are left with the rear of the vehicle, and we’ve got the main foot plates with the steering column.
Mel: Yeah, and the rear is the motor, so again that’s quite a weighty piece of kit.
Host: Yeah, no, definitely. That definitely has a lot of weight to it, that one.
Mel: But as you can see, that’s three parts. So this would be your main fourth part. This tiller, as it is called, drops down to make that more compact.
Host: So the tiller, which is the steering part, so basically you’ve been able to fold that down, straight flat onto where the clients would be resting their feet.
Mel: Resting their feet, yeah. And again, is somebody physically able to lift this up from the floor, because it is quite low, and put it into the boot of their car, because that is the biggest part.
Host: But that is quite a compact size now, so for a standard car, that would fit quite comfortably within.
Mel: Quite nicely into the boot, yeah. We always recommend that people always have some sort of means of tying it down in the boot, obviously, but yeah, it makes it quite compact. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle if it’s a small vehicle, but we do get it in.
Host: So moving on now towards walkers.
Mel: Yeah, walkers we mean three wheel or four wheel walkers. I don’t know if people are aware, but in Scandinavia, walkers are actually issued rather than a walking stick, and that’s worth considering because they are seen as a much safer product. If someone is relying on a walking stick really heavily, then something like this would actually improve their posture and help with their safety mainly because they are pushing something that is wheeled in front of them, so it is keeping them posture upright. There is an element of acceptance with products like these. We often get, specially in the older generation, we do get people coming and saying, “Oh, I’m not ready for that yet. I haven’t reached that yet.” But we try and sort of make people turn that on its head and try and make people see that it’s about keeping independent and safe.
Host: And as far as walkers, looking at this, this is a very modern piece of kit. This is very ergonomic and the modern kind of materials. What is this made of?
Mel: Mainly aluminium and plastic, obviously - but old plastic. The difference with this one that you have picked out is this one is a free-standing one and it folds the same, functionally, it folds the same as a wheelchair would fold. Some of the others or the more traditional types, they don’t fold quite so easily, so in terms of storage, this one that you have picked out is much better and has become much more popular.
Host: As I sense at the moment, its folded so this could be put into a vehicle as it is. As far as extending it and making it into a usable walker, can you demonstrate that for me?
Mel: I can. I have unclipped this part near the seat, and if I push the handles open, you will hear an audible click in a minute as I push down on the seat. That’s now ready to go. It’s got brakes on the handlebars, rather like a bicycle, so squeezing those gently will slow it down. So if people are going downhill just like they used to when they were on the bike cruising down the hill, it’s got push things here for getting up the curb.
Host: You’re lifting up, so you’re basically putting your feet onto what looks like a pedal on the back wheel and that’s allowing you to lift the walker upwards.
Mel: Yeah, it lifts the front of the walker up to access pavements and things. We do sort of try to say to people, you’re better looking for dropped curbs but as we all know, in Truro and other places, people tend to park over those so that can be difficult. Three-wheel walkers we also sell, but not readily, and again, this is all about assessment. People come in and they think they want a three-wheel walker because it looks smaller etc etc, but as I can demonstrate to you perhaps, the problem with a three-wheel walker is that they tip very easily. If you are going in a straight line, that’s fine, but as soon as you go to turn a corner, there is that risk if someone is leaning on it really heavily, of them tipping over. So again, we’re very careful about when we assess people for these. We don’t readily condone a three-wheeler. Now Shaun, one of my colleagues, has brought a rather interesting chair to show you.
Host: What have we got here then, Shaun?
Shaun: Right, this is the Invacare Dragon Vertic. It looks at first glance just like a normal power chair that we’d be able to drive, but it has got a couple of extra features on it which makes it slightly unique. What I’ll do is I think I’ll just show it to you.
Host: So we have the chair and obviously quite sturdy wheels at the bottom here. You’ve got your battery compartment and the computer side of things in there, so if I just get into the chair now...
Shaun: It does have a piece here to support your knees, which I’ll just pop it there roughly.
Host: Yep, so that’s now protecting my knees and making sure that I sort of stay quite steady within the chair.
Shaun: And it has a tray unit here as well, so if you need to put anything...
Host: So that tray unit, just going a bit above my lap there, just above my legs so...
Shaun: So, as you sit on a wheelchair - you may or may not have sat in one before - but the first thing that you’ll probably notice is that you are a bit lower than me and you can move around in it. You can get around like any other wheelchair, but if you had something on top of a shelf - something you couldn’t reach, you might have a bit of trouble. This is where this chair helps you out.
Host: So it’s just lit up now.
Shaun: If you move the joystick forward, it will actually stand you up to a standing position, so now socially, you are at the same level as me and you can communicate. You can move around the place in a stood up position. It gives you complete access to higher shelves, things around the house and that sort of thing, so that’s the sort of extra bit you get with this chair.
Host: So I’m still within a sitting position, but I’m almost vertical now and I’ve still got all the functions and obviously tray and my leg support is still firmly within the chair, but as you say, I’m now at eye level with you standing up. I can even move forward and stay there, so in a standing position, I am able to move the chair forward. Maybe I was at home and I needed to, as you say, get to a shelf. Once I have gotten into the raised position, I am then able to move over towards the shelf, get what I need, put it back onto the plate in front of me and then move back to maybe more comfortable seating position maybe back in my living room.
Shaun: Again, once you push the button, it will allow you to go back to a normal position. We also have the option of putting on additional controls, which could be chin control or sip and puff and all that sort of thing is an option. There’s even an attendant control on this one, which allows an attendant to maneuver somebody around.
Host: And very simple controls as well. I mean there’s only a few buttons here, but they are all very clearly labelled. I can obviously see - is that a rabbit there which is I guess for the movement, is it?
Shaun: That’s basically you’ve got an on-off switch, you’ve got some lighting functions if they were fitted to this one, you’ve got the seating option or the drive option. And you can, just by pushing the drive option, you can change the top speed, and the seating option just takes you to the up and down.
Host: So you’re talking about changing controls and the options that are available as additional facilities on the chair. Can you explain a little bit more about what those will do?
Shaun: Chin control, basically, is a joystick very similar to what you have got here, but it would be mounted around your chin. So if you didn’t have use of your hands to do this, you can actually use your chin. You put your chin on like a little cup, and you can move your chin forward, backward, left and right to control the chair. The other additional buttons here would be connected through some wires to something called “body buttons”; and they can be mounted anywhere, so they can be contacted with your elbow, your head, anything like that. You can get a headrest with some buttons on it - you can just tap the buttons to change the options on the chair, and use the chin for left and right. Sip and puff is another feature which you basically put a little tube in your mouth and you can basically control the functions of the chair through sipping and puffing on the tube. That’s a short answer, that one.
Host: As you say, so no matter what the needs are, there’s obviously ways that you can have different facilities within the chair to modify to particular need.
Shaun: Yeah, basically there are lots of different things we can get. There’s scanners and different environmental controls we can get in too if you need them. In some cases, we can put an infrared system on a chair which lets you do your doors in your house, the curtains, your stereo, your TV can all be controlled from your wheelchair.
Host: So Ron, we’ve had a look around Cornwall Mobility. So many things that you’ve got to offer here.
Ron: Absolutely, and I think the difficulty is that people don’t understand who we are and what we do until they actually need our services. And what we could encourage is people actually come and visit us and understand what we do, what we can actually do to help them before they actually need us. We’re based on the Treliske Campus here in Truro. We’re open Monday till Friday, 9 to 5. Best if people just ring in advance to make an appointment before they come in, but we’re more than happy for people to just drop in off the street.
Host: A very good point there. It’s one of those things I guess where when it comes to the time that you need the services, there are so many things that go on in people’s minds. So to be able to come before that time to know what’s on offer, it’s almost a very comforting thing, isn’t it?
Edward: I think it’s one of the things that we try and get across to the general public. It is that every family has a need for our services at some point, unfortunately, through illness or accident or progressive debilitation of some sort. And so we encourage people to visit. We’re based on the Treliske site, just at the back of the hospital. You go past the helicopter pad and the windsock up there, and we’re at North Buildings. The best way to find us is to goon our website, which is www.cornwallmobility.co.uk. As Ron says, to ring ahead is a good idea. It’s 01872 for Truro 254920. That’s 254920 - 01872254920. We’re always delighted to see people. We can show people around, talk about what issues they may have, or might perceive within their family, but I can’t emphasize enough the difference which our centre makes compared to other outlets is that we always do an assessment first, whether it is in the field of driving - continuing to drive, that type of thing; or if it’s in independent living and the need for provision of equipment such as a wheelchair or bathroom equipment. And an assessment is just a chat!
Host: Again, Edward and Ron, thank you for showing me around, and hopefully speak to you again in a few weeks time.
Ron: Yeah, thank you very much.