- Gender: Male
- Age: 37
- Condition: Spinal Cord Injury Quadriplegic C4 Incomplete ASIA C
- Prior device: Powered wheelchair
- Main use: Going to work, daily tasks
What’s your story?
I used to be a big athlete. I reached a semi-professional level in downhill mountain biking, snowboarded for 12 years, participated in motocross racing, and was an avid surfer. After graduating with my bachelors in nutrition from California Polytechnic State University, I spent two years working as a sushi chef, hoping to pursue that as my career. In 2006, I was injured in an accident. All my aspirations came to a halt, so I had to reinvent myself. I had lost my sense of purpose and belonging but I found ways to enjoy life, spending time with friends, going to therapy, and meeting new people. For the past three years, I’ve worked as a peer mentor at Rancho Los Amigos Rehab Center where I encourage and support people with spinal cord injuries. I exercise 3-4 times a week and go on a lot of outings, whether it’s the movies, concerts, comedy clubs, the beach, or traveling. So far I’ve traveled to Texas, Hawaii, Northern California, and even went on a cruise to Mexico.
Why did you choose Model M?
My current device is Permobil C300, a power chair that works well, but not at the same level as Model M. In my Permobil—if I try to get up to a door or a table—my feet get blocked. With Model M, I don’t have that issue. On a recent trip to Venice Beach, I went cruising down the boardwalk and could feel that Model M has more top speed, more acceleration, and moves more naturally and easily in traffic. I even went on some sand and was amazed how I was able to drive without getting stuck. My Permobil could never do that. Model M is the sort of chair that keeps up with my active lifestyle while providing comfort. I’m an adrenaline junkie and want a thrill when riding in a power chair, so I like to push my limits.
What do you like about Model M?
I love the look, functionality, maneuverability, 4WD, and compactness. No one sees me, at least from my perspective, as someone with a disability. They’re drawn to the unique design of Model M. When I’m using my Permobil, people ask me why I’m in a chair or what’s my disability. That doesn’t happen with Model M. Instead, I have more positive attention. Other power chairs tend to draw more negative attention. The stigma of power chair users is either that you’re too disabled or too lazy. WHILL has created a chair that is changing people’s perceptions. At the Life Rolls On event in Venice Beach, I stood out from people in manual and power chairs. I’ve gotten to know many of these people over the years, but this is the only time I see them, so it’s exciting to get a positive reaction when they see Model M and tell me it looks cool.
How has WHILL impacted your life?
When I was at my niece’s birthday party, I was able to go to the picnic area where there was lots of bark, grass, and obstacles. Everyone was amazed that I could move around easily in Model M. With my brother, he’s not 100% excited that I’m in a wheelchair, but he thinks Model M is super cool. He accepts it and responds very positively. It’s encouraging to me when people look at me and see another person like them instead of someone with a disability. WHILL is doing great things in people’s lives and I’m excited to see where it goes in the future. Everyday, It’s going a little further off the beaten path, further than the average power chair.
Note: Daniel had an extensive test drive with a demo unit.