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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Absolute No According to the Wheelchair Manual

My new Apex wheelchair came with a tool kit. Motion Composites is not screwing around (pun intended). The little kit is not only useful but of surprisingly good quality. Any basic repair can easily be performed and more than a few major components can be worked on as well. The tool kit even has a belt loop holder. The kit is absolutely perfect for traveling whether by plane, train or car. I was also pleased to learn that Motion Composites will continue to provide any part for a period of ten years. It is my hope this wheelchair will last me the rest of my life.

Note I did not include bus travel above. Motion Composites states the wheelchair cannot be used on any paratransit or mass transit bus. The inclusion of the kit is ironic because the warranty in the owners manual is clear the wheelchair can only be adjusted by the manufacturer or a "qualified service agent". I am not sure why the tool kit was included. The warranty outlines the "repair procedure". According to the manufacturer the "parts that could be repaired by the owner: Rear tire and inner tube".  That is it. That is the only part of the wheelchair I as an owner can work on. I am more than a bit puzzled. Motion Composites was all too willing to sell me a tool kit to work on the wheelchair but the manual that came with the wheelchair prohibits me from making any adjustments. The glossy brochure that came with he wheelchair even advertises and praises how adjustable the wheelchair is.

If anything noted in the section on "Adjusts to your Life" is done by the expert rider or owner the warranty is void. Only the manufacturer or a certified service center can adjust the wheelchair. Any part that can be removed must be returned to the manufacturer. Thus any service or repair to the wheels, arm rest, upholstery, and cushion must be performed by Motion Composites. A certified technician employed by an authorized service center can work on "broken bearings, loose spokes, wheel not aligned, loose bolts, abnormal vibrations, noise or any deviation in the frame, front stem is not perpendicular to floor, broken parts like anti tippers, back canes, rips or tear on upholstery and for yearly inspection" I am confused. This list includes removable parts such as wheels and beloved anti tippers.

Other emphatic no's include disposing of the wheelchair. Yes, I am not permitted to throw out the wheelchair. "In case of disposal, return device to your dealer or rehabilitation center".  Wow, the medical model of disability reigns supreme. The manual warns me that motor vehicles and all busses represent significant risk. The wheelchair is "NOT" designed to be used in any motor vehicle. The wheelchairs manufactured "DO NOT meet Federal Highway standards for motor vehicle seating". As always, the exclamation point inside a triangle proclaims:

NEVER transport your chair in the front seat of a vehicle. Movements of the vehicle may cause the chair to shift and interfere with he driver's ability to control the vehicle. When transporting your chair in a moving vehicle, ALWAYS secure your chair so that it cannot roll or shift. In most cases, stowing it in the trunk is the safest alternative.

Another warning relate to the optional push handles. "The stroller-handle is not designed to lift or pull the weight of the user. It is designed to push and guide the wheelchair user". Stroller handle! Am I an infant or an adult?

Sporting activities are prohibited. The wheelchair is not designed to be used in any sporting activity. Weight training and stretching are not permitted as well. I am cautioned to never stand on the wheelchair or any part of the frame. I must be sober at all times. Yes, no drinking is allowed.

DO NOT use while under the influence of alcohol or medication or drugs. This may impair your ability to operate the wheelchair. Please consult your physician regarding the use of your medication. The wheelchair is not intended for visually impaired people. 

The wheelchair manual informs me that the wheelchair is not designed to be used in extreme temperatures. Hypothermia and severe burns can occur if the wheelchair is exposed to extremes of heat and cold. Under the section CAUTION I am informed Do not expose product to any extreme temperatures (e.g. direct sunlight, sauna, extreme cold) in order to prevent injuries by contact with some parts of the wheelchair". I never knew direct sunlight was so dangerous. It also looks like skiing or going outside in the winter is out of the question. And no summer activities. I can only assume temperature in the 90s are extreme. This says nothing about the dangers of humidity

I have thoroughly enjoyed deconstructing the wheelchair manual. I was also prompted to read other manuals,. The manual that came with my hand cycle contains no such ridiculous warnings. The manual is simply of little use and the warnings are relatively limited. I read multiple typical bike manuals as well. They contain few ridiculous warnings. For me, the larger issue is the wheelchair manual assumes a complete lack of independence on the part of the person using the wheelchair. How does a company that manufactures a wheelchair designed to make a person independent write such a a manual? Concern for liability only goes so far. As I read the wheelchair manual I thought of the newly paralyzed person or therapist charged with teaching such a person how to adapt to paralysis. What sort of life long skills are being taught? While curb cuts abound, they are not at every street corner. Popping up and down a curb is an essential skill. The fact is wheelchair should be designed to meet the most extreme environmental conditions one is typically exposed to. The refusal of wheelchair manufacturers to acknowledge this reality adversely affects people with a disability. This is a significant problem that compromises the daily life of people with a disability. Many power chair users have written to me expressing frustration over controllers that are not waterproof. I can find waterproof cameras, phones, computers, tablets in any given electronics store. Wheelchair manufacturers surely can make a power chair controller that is water tight. As for my wheelchair to expect it to be removed from the bathroom while showering is just silly. Yet beyond the silliness are ever present assumptions about the quality of life. We people reliant on wheelchairs have no life beyond an institution or home. Hence, strangers often comment to me "It is so good to see you out". The wheelchair manual is the 24 page equivalent of this comment.  

In the spirit of fairness, in the days ahead I will outline why I chose this wheelchair over others manufactured. I am truly pleased with the new wheelchair. It is incredibly light and easy to push. I am eager to zoom through an airport and suspect I could go a mile in under five minutes if the concourse is relatively empty. I have a serious case of new wheelchair enthusiasm. I clean the wheelchair daily and it remains as shiny today as the day I picked it up.


Glee said...

The filthy bigotry of low expectations and their own liability arse covering are the main disabling factors we encounter. With ANY disability service or product. They remain ignorant and don't really care.

Unknown said...

The manufacturer assumes that all wheelchair users are (a) completely mentally incompetent and (b) never ever have any reason to be outdoors.