- Gender: Male
- Age: 30
- Condition: Spinal Cord Injury C5-C6
- Prior device: Manual wheelchair with power assist
- Main use: Traveling
What’s your story?
I spent most of my life in Chile, played sports when I was young, and then I went to college at 18 for my engineering degree. About two months after starting college, I was spending a night out with friends and was in the passenger seat of the car when a drunk driver slammed into my side. I was the only person injured, but the impact led to a C5-C6 complete spinal cord injury. I received a lot of support from my family and friends as I recovered from the accident, and eventually bought a manual wheelchair. After graduating from my university, I worked for several startups in Chile for three years before deciding to study at UC Berkeley for my MBA. I have one year until I graduate and plan to stay in this area.
Why did you choose Model M?
The Bay Area is very hilly, and I needed a power-assisted device that worked on this type of terrain. However, I have never liked powered wheelchairs because I feel like they make me appear more disabled. That’s why I decided to search for other options that would allow me to move independently. Model M’s compactness sets it apart from other products and it’s also the most ideal product for me. Now—instead of people seeing just a big, motorized device—they see me.
What do you like about Model M?
I was immediately impressed with the level of excellence in Model M’s design and features. The 4WD allows me to go on any terrain, something I can’t do in my manual wheelchair. I consider myself an active person and regularly play sports such as wheelchair rugby and handcycling. I love these sports, but Model M allows me to take my activities to another level. In a manual wheelchair, I would have difficulty visiting places like Yosemite, but this was not the case when I brought Model M to this national park. I took a weekend trip with a group of friends and was able to go on the trails that weren’t wheelchair accessible. It was amazing. My friends didn’t need to limit themselves and I could go up steep hills without needing to be pushed.
How has your lifestyle changed?
Model M has allowed me to go places I could not have reached with a manual wheelchair. I love having this independence. In California, there are a lot of outdoor activities like hiking and camping and Model M allows me to join my friends and colleagues on cool trips, like the one at Yosemite.
Note: Alvaro is a WHILL employee using a demo unit.