Monday, March 21, 2016

Mason Using the Free Wheel

One challenge for anyone using a wheelchair is that any uneven terrain makes it difficult to impossible to move.  For an active 4 year old like Mason this means when we are playing outside he is often limited to crawling on the ground because he simply can't get his wheelchair to move in grass, on uneven sidewalks, on gravel.  Crawling on these surfaces then tears up his clothing and his skin.  It's a vicious cycle.  And he is unable to keep up with his siblings or other children who run from the sidewalk into the grass during a game of tag. 

We learned of a wheelchair attachment called a Free Wheel that is made to help with these difficulties.  Today we were able to get one for Mason.  Here is a video of Mason in the back yard using the Free Wheel for the first time outside. It works, but he will have some upper body strength to build too for more inclined or uneven ground.

So far we can see there are a few bugs to work out. The Free Wheel is actually not made to fit a wheelchair as small as Mason's so it took some custom work to fit it. This means that because his wheelchair is so short the footplate the free wheel attaches to doesn't provide the same tip as it would on an adult or older child wheelchair that is taller. Mason's casters (small front wheels) clear the ground now, but less than an adult's would. This means depending on how uneven the ground is the casters still hit the ground and can snag a bit, needing more muscle to push. Mason will develop that muscle. We are looking at other measures where we could possibly have removable casters for when we attach the Free Wheel (so there are no small front wheels at all, we would pull them off, then replace before taking off the free wheel). We are the first young child wheelchair that our vendor has put a free wheel on.
Another thing, the Free Wheel comes with an attachment for the back of the wheelchair to hang the free wheel while not in use. Mason's wheelchair isn't tall enough for it to clear the ground when hanging, so we didn't put that attachment on. We'll use it on his next wheelchair when he's older.

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