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Category: Wheelchair

Wheelchair Woes . . . Sadly Continued

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Sport, Customer Service, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Personal, and Wheelchair

If you have read my last blog, you’ll be aware of my current wheelchair issues and the frustration it’s causing.  At the time of writing my last blog, I stupidly thought I was nearing the end of my issues. Little did I know there was further drama in store.

Frustrated by being told I’d have to wait over two weeks for a part to be shipped from Germany, I decided to pile the pressure on to the manufacturer, Invacare, with regular tweets and emails – highlighting how not having a functional wheelchair was severely impacting upon my independence – please follow @ACBlackborough if you don’t already!

Invacare’s responses were typically along the lines off “we’re sorry and we’re looking into it” which wasn’t really cutting mustard with me at this stage. But then I receive an email, telling me the part would be dispatched that day for delivery tomorrow. Though obviously very happy that two weeks had been reduced to a day, it begged the question why this hadn’t be done to start with? A question which Invacare have declined to answer.

Despite this, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting my wheelchair, and my independence back, after just shy of 5 weeks.  My excitement was dashed when the dealer phoned to break bad news – the part had duly arrived as stated but it was faulty.  After so long, I was unsurprisingly fuming.

Again, Invacare said another part would be despatched for next day delivery. In the five weeks without my wheels, my life had effectively been put on hold. I’d had to cancel numerous plans including work commitments. My spare chair, brought at further expense, is very basic – limiting me to local, essential trips only and even a basic requirement like food shopping, has been really problematic.

So you can imagine my joy when the wheelchair was finally returned to me last Saturday afternoon.  I made plans for the coming week and promised my little boy some trips out.  I committed to attending a meeting in Nottingham, where I am proud chair of Cerebral Palsy Sport.  Life could finally return to normal. Or so I thought.

As soon as I took the wheelchair out, I noticed the battery was behaving oddly – dropping power almost immediately.  Having used electric wheelchairs for the best part of 20 years, I was pretty sure something wasn’t right but I decided to give the chair a couple of long charges before reporting a problem.  Again, I felt limited as to what I was able to do and decided to carry the charger with me, just in case.

When I arrived in Nottingham, the chair was displaying low power so I plugged it in during my meeting and phoned the dealer – Easy Living Mobility – who have been amazing and arranged to visit me the next day.  Despite charging the chair at work, I only just made it home that night – with the chair giving up the ghost on our driveway.

The next day confirmed my fears – the battery was most probably failing and the wheelchair would have to be taken away again to be tested. I’d have to wait 4-5 days for new batteries.  I was utterly fed up – my plans for the next few days turned upside down YET AGAIN.

And what do I get from Invacare?

“We’re working with the Invacare Retailer to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

No apology, no concern for how I’m coping without my lifeline.  I count this now as six weeks – for six weeks I’ve been without a reliable, fit-for-purpose wheelchair but it really seems like Invacare couldn’t give a damn.  They have my money – almost £8000 – and beyond that isn’t their concern.

I’ve only had my wheelchair for 9 months and due to various faults, it has been out of action for 2 of those months.  Considering they talk about keeping people mobile as part of their marketing, I think most would agree that Invacare is failing, miserably.

Wheelchair Woes

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Aids, Disability Awareness, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, and Wheelchair

 

I recently tweeted about how frustrating life can be as a disabled person but how incredibly grateful I am for having such supportive family and friends. Life as a someone who is reliant upon an electric wheelchair can be very frustrating, particularly when things go wrong.

Almost three weeks ago, I had planned an afternoon out at the park with my little lad and his cousins.  It’s rare that they see each other and I was looking forward to time with my nephews and niece.  But on the way to the park, my wheelchair started cutting out suddenly. I’d turn on the power button again, only for it to cut out again after a few hundred yards. With four children in my care, I didn’t feel safe or in control. Luckily, we were meeting friends at the park but I also rang hubby to walk us back.  The chair progressively got worst and eventually, it wouldn’t move more than a metre without failing.  Hubby resorted to pushing me home and the happy, relaxing day I’d planned ended in frustration.

The wheelchair had only been purchased late in 2017, as I’d decided to leave the Motability Scheme, ironically due to slow and extremely poor customer service.  Unluckily still, the company I’d purchased it from had gone out of business a month after my purchase, meaning I had no support in such instances.  So I found a company, Northwick Associates, who unlike so many companies, were able to come out to me that day.  They seemed to understand the urgency of my predicament.  Unfortunately, the engineer who visited was unable to pinpoint the problem despite his 2 hour visit. Nevertheless, he promised that another engineer would be sent as soon as possible.

Two days later, another engineer arrived who seemed to empathise with me and understand that my electric wheelchair is the absolute key to my independence.  He’d spent time the night before his visit studying the wheelchair manuals to try and find the problem.  With some wriggles and jiggles, it seemed he had cleared the error and just to be sure, I did a short test drive and the chair was back to normal.  I was over the moon to have my independence back – it’s hard for me to convey the relief knowing my life is back to normal. Some may think I’m exaggerating but imagine someone taking your car keys or your wallet – how would that impact upon your life?

But my joy was short-lived as the next evening, Friday, the chair began cutting out again as I went to visit my parents. I rang Northwick again only to be told that unfortunately no engineers were available until Monday – at the earliest.  Imagine your car breaking down and phoning the AA or RAC, only to be told you’d have to wait two days for any assistance?!

I should explain that due to previous issues with my wheelchair, we did purchase a very basic back-up replacement in January just to ensure that I’d never be totally housebound. I soon realised though that it was literally to allow me to do the essentials locally – it is very basic and has very little umph!  Try going from driving a brand new Mercedes to a Fiesta and you’ll be on my wavelength.

Monday morning arrives and I’m on the phone again to Northwick but as timing has it, the engineers are on training and unavailable to visit until Wednesday – when not one but two engineers arrive.  Surely between them, I thought, they would identify the problem?  Unfortunately – I’m using that word a lot – they concluded that they would have to take the chair away to strip it down.

I was truly exasperated at this point – if only I’d known how far I was from a conclusion!  Three days later the engineer texted to say the fault had been found, repaired and the chair was ready. Hubby and I decided to collect it ourselves as to save some time.  Once again, the relief of getting my Mercedes back was immense!  But hubby aired caution when I mulled over a solo trip to town.

Wisely so. The next day, as I returned from the local shops, the chair started behaving weirdly – but not quite as before. I hoped it was me imagining the worst until the next day. I was doing the school run and got as far as the school grounds when the chair cut out totally, just as before. My little boy’s teacher approached to see if she could help and I had to try so hard not to disgrace myself in front of her but instead I fought to hold back tears as I tried to explain.

Having managed to get safely home thanks to hubby and a friend, I knew I needed to compose myself before once again phoning Northwick. I should stress I didn’t blame them as they had been more responsive than anyone I’d dealt with in the past, but I was to put it mildly, very frustrated at this point.

Northwick admitted they were now at a lost and offered to contact the manufacturer, Invacare, on my behalf as the chair was still under warranty. Another few days are lost until they send out an engineer.

YET AGAIN, I’m told the chair will be taken away for a thorough investigation. My only consolation is that I’m informed now that the warranty should cover it.  I’m sort of pleased to say the fault has finally being identified, but wait for it. Here comes the icing on the cake.  The replacement part I need isn’t stocked in the UK and has to be ordered from GERMANY. Yes and it was only ordered yesterday. And, oh yes, they are unable or more likely, unwilling to give an expected time of arrival.

Three and a half weeks without my wheels, my independence, my ability to travel and take my little boy to school safely – and that’s all I get.

I saw a tweet quite recently that essentially implied that disabled people should be grateful and satisfied with the progress this country has made in the last two decades to improve disability equality.

I’d have to respectfully disagree.