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Chair on the Go

Took my first plane trip with the new chair.

Adventure Number One: the push handles

My previous chair has integral push handles, which has advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: on the rare occasions when I need to be pushed, there are push handles! Disadvantage: push handles are an invitation for people to touch, lean, and yes, push (very irritating). Since I like a low back, the push handles are too low for most people to actually use comfortably.

The new chair came with a plain back and “bolt-on” push handles, which come up higher than the top of the back. Turns out that “bolt-on” means that you insert the push handle tube into a receptacle, then screw a pointed allen screw through an oval slot, and pin the opposite side of the handle tube in place with the screw. There’s no detent to hold the whole thing together, just tension.

I planned to use the push handles since I was going to be in very rough terrain during the trip. Turns out in practice that these things come undone about 5 times a day, more if anyone is actually using the push handles. It’s especially a disaster if your helper tries to lift the chair by the push handles.

Adventure Number Two: the wheelchair carry

I was visiting friends who have four steps down between the driveway and the house. I’ve been carried down a few steps lots of times, but this time was extra-special. Two strong guys picked up the front by the down tubes, one strong guy picked up the back by the rigidizer bar (not the push handles!). As we descended two steps, all the weight was transferred to the guy in back, who lost his footing and let go of the wheelchair, which resulted in me flat on my back in the chair, two horrified guys in front, and one guy in the back nursing a twisted ankle (at least he let go, otherwise he probably would have fallen down on top of me).

No major harm done (I felt a little bruised for a day), except maybe to one of the guys in the front, who is a professional climber (ie, specialist in getting things up and down) and felt he should have set up the whole thing better.

It definitely gave me some new food for thought about the evacuation problem.

Adventure Number Three: the amazing falling out footrest

I have one of those cute little folding allen wrench sets, which provides 90% of the tools I need to adjust any chair I’ve had.

As we unloaded at the airport prior to our flight home, I took the allen wrenches out of my chair bag and put them in my checked luggage, so as not to alarm anyone who thought I might be able to hijack a plane with them. As I watched my checked bag disappear on the conveyer belt, I adjusted my weight in the chair and the footrest FELL OUT and on to the floor.

Turns out that the footrest assembly is held in place with the same goofy little pointy allen screws, and could have been fixed in about 30 seconds if I had had my allen wrenches.

So off my husband went, with my chair, to find an allen wrench. Sacramento Police Department’s Office Carlson to the rescue! She radioed her bicycle mounted seargent, who turned up with his nifty allen wrench set, and the day was saved.

We also didn’t miss our flight, on account of it was delayed three hours, but that’s another story.

Katja

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