- Gender: Female
- Age: 24
- Condition: Spinal Muscular Atrophy
- Prior Device: Permobil C350
- Main Use: Home, public transportation and work
What’s your story?
I was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of 2. Walking was always difficult but I became fully dependent on a wheelchair by age 9. I used a manual wheelchair for most of my life because it allowed me more flexibility in the small Oklahoma town I grew up in which lacked accessibility. I spent many years as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association where I traveled locally to raise awareness and funds for children and adults with neurological diseases. At the age of 17, I moved to San Francisco to attend university. Living in a walkable urban environment allowed me to transition into a power chair and gain my independence where I could get around either on sidewalks or with public transportation. This inspired a new chapter of advocacy work — writing and speaking for better accessibility on mass transit for people with disabilities.
Why did you choose Model M?
I first saw WHILL at the Abilities Expo in San Jose. I was a design major at the time so I was thrilled to see the wheelchair completely reinvented. At first glance, I was skeptical the Model M wouldn’t meet my criteria, but after taking it for a test drive and doing additional research, I found that despite its simplistic design, it’s a fully comprehensive assistive device that does everything I need. This chair is robust enough to go off-road on the weekend but also looks sleek and sophisticated around the tech office where I work. Usually when I see a new wheelchair design I feel that it focuses too much on serving one particular purpose, like going on the beach or climbing stairs. This is the first everyday use chair that doesn’t compromise form or functionality.
What do you like about Model M?
Even though the Model M is smaller than my previous chair, it’s incredibly powerful and has so many subtle features for problems I didn’t even realize I had. The Omni wheels allow me to climb steeper ramps and have a much smoother ride over bumps. Despite limited arm strength, I can easily slide the armrests up and out of the way for transferring. The chair is compact which fits my petite body type perfectly and allows me to get in closer reach to door handles, tables and appliances. The turning radius of the chair maneuvers in tiny spaces like tight elevators and narrow corridors with ease.
How has Model M impacted your life?
The Model M completely shifts the conversation I have with strangers from “What happened to you?” to “Wow, what a cool device you have”. I can’t cure my disease or break down the stigma around assistive devices, but WHILL Model M has allowed me to feel a greater sense of confidence. I have overcome countless barriers that made it hard to fully participate in society, and now I have a chair that I’m proud to be seen in.
Note: Sunday had an extensive test drive with a demo unit.