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Giving clients the freedom to move

Sue Byers, Physiotherapist

Sue Byers is a Wellington-based physiotherapist who has been involved in the provision of wheelchairs and seating since 1990 andhas seen demand for the e-motion wheels explode in the last two years as more wheelchair users discover the benefits of this advanced technology.  

Over the past two decades, Sue has watched her clients’ struggle with basic wheelchair access and freedom of movement. However, rapidly evolving technology is about to ensure that wheelchair users across New Zealand can overcome these restrictions and finally live a more independent life.

Sue has been working with one client in particular who has benefited greatly from this new technology.

“My client is in his fifties,” she says. “He has been a tetraplegic for the last 20 years. He was in a normal wheelchair, which was fine for him until a second injury caused a right arm weakening. He has no movement in his trunk and he can’t lean over and turn his old wheelchair on and off.”

eMotion Wheels

This second injury left Sue’s client completely reliant on his carers.

“He spent the last two years propped on his dining room table once his carers had left him for the day,” she says.

New technology changed all of that. e-motion wheels have electric motors that can be fitted onto a standard wheelchair helping  users cover longer distances, ramps and slopes. The biggest benefit for Sue’s client, however, is that it allows him to operate his wheelchair from an upright position.

“The new version that’s just come out has a remote,” Sue says. “My client just sets it up at his dining room table and sets off at will.”

Sue knows how important it is for her clients to feel more independent and what a big impact this can have on their frame of mind.

“We put him in a power wheelchair and he hated it,” she says. “He wanted the e-motion wheels and everyone thought he was stupid. He only uses it in flat terrain around his house, but it’s great for him because he doesn’t need to wait for his carers. Psychologically he is a different person.”

Sue says new products that come onto the market are often discovered through word of mouth.

“My first experience with e-motion wheels was through a paraplegic man who imported them and has used them ever since,” she says.

“After that, it didn’t seem to go anywhere. But suddenly it’s just gone ballistic. Word gets around about new technology. Now I have maybe a dozen of my clients in the Wellington area who use them.”

Sue says new technology such as the e-motion wheels benefit users in different ways.

“For my client, the remote is the most important benefit. Other users will benefit from the new battery. It lasts so much longer than the first generation.”

Sue thinks it’s great that her client now has some of his freedom and independence back.

“My client wouldn’t have been able to use the first generation model,” she says. “And even though he only uses his new wheels on level 1, that’s good enough to make a huge difference in his life.”