Imagine living a life in Cornwall where you couldn't go to the beach... pretty grim isn't it?!
On behalf of Cornwall Mobility and Falmouth University, I took to the sands in order to review their new Beach Wheelchair Prototypes!
I was super excited to test these out as I LOVE the beach and I'm also a sucker for a new toy! If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll also know that I'm not afraid to voice my opinion. So as soon as I had the opportunity to review these bad-boys, I headed straight for Perranporth beach!
First things first, a massive THANK YOU to the team behind these prototypes. Regardless of my review, I appreciate the fact there's people out there trying make this world a more accessible place. A good friend once told me: "Being in a wheelchair doesn't stop you from doing anything - it's the world around you that's disabled."
After seeing these new chairs advertised online, I was excited to try them out. I am a full-time electric wheelchair user and have only been to the beach a handful of times over the past few years - due to it being quite a struggle!
Unfortunately the new chair didn't live up to the hype I was expecting. If I'm going to be honest, I found it extremely uncomfortable compared to previous sandchairs I've used.
I thought the reclined seating position would be an improvement but it really wasn't. The general seating and backrest was so hard that I actually found it quite painful. I also felt very vulnerable and unstable, due to sitting at a reclined angle without any upper body lateral support or headrest.
From a "pushers" point of view, my dad also found it a lot harder to manoeuvre this chair compared to previous ones we've used. The wheels did not move as freely, making it harder to turn direction as there was no central bar on the rear frame.
The new prototype (in light blue) may look more aesthetically pleasing, but comfort wise, it cannot compete with the older model - as pictured below.
My other main critique is the fact that they are all "manual". For me personally, I cannot stress the importance of electric power for independence. Being able to control my wheelchair and move freely - without having to rely on somebody else - is a key part of my life.
Of course I understand that an electric feature would increase manufacturing costs - but I'm sure myself and others would be willing to pay a larger donation after each use. Currently these chairs are free to hire (which is great!) - but if it meant charging extra for powered features, then I'm willing to pay!
In defence of the new prototype, I liked the adjustable footrest - which was an added feature that I've not seen before.
It's also great to see the chairs being allocated in so many different places across Cornwall.
It's important to note that we ALL have different comfort needs, therefore I understand that trying to accommodate everyone must be impossible.
The most important thing is that it got me on the beach...which is all that matters!
I personally wouldn't use this new prototype again. I'm happy to stick with the original sandchairs, as I find their seating a lot more comfortable.
Overall, I am grateful for the opportunity to try these out and excited to see future developments of this product. I also hope that the electric version (which I have tried in the past) get repaired sooner rather than later!
In the words of Nicki Minaj: "Let's go to the beach, each, let's go get away!"
If you're interested in hiring the beach wheelchairs or have any queries, please see all the relevant contact details below: