The use of Bluetooth, LED lights and phone charging points are no longer the sole domain of the executive car – these are the types of technology being installed into state-of-the-art mobility aids, to help people who rely on them to explore  the world.

Major breakthroughs in accessibility in recent years have seen power wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, power assists and seating and positioning products developed to help empower users, giving them  freedom to travel and discover new places and experiences.

In addition to mobility and wellbeing, lifestyle is now a key feature in the development of new products going  to the market, with modern technology helping to redefine the traditional view  of wheelchairs.

One leading manufacturer in this field is Permobil, a company which has been at the forefront of redefining the sector, with the introduction of its Active Height and Active Reach innovations to help the user achieve new goals.

“We are constantly striving to find ways to contribute to our user’s quality of life.

“As well as our power wheelchair products, we want to communicate the possibilities that the combination of manual wheelchairs with power assist devices offer to users, extending their mobility, increasing function and opening up possibilities for excursions and travel,” says Gordon Cunningham, who leads Permobil’s  UK operation.

Permobil, which began life in Sweden over 50 years ago and has grown into a global leader in its field, is certainly using technology to maximum effect.

The clinical need for good seating and positioning, alongside the necessity to create maximum comfort, has seen the development of practical functions like its Active Height – a seat elevator to allow users to achieve better vantage points – and Active Reach, which tilts the seat forward and raises it, helping to extend reach.

Both have been hailed as breakthroughs  in independence.

The F5 Corpus VS offers the possibility to stand and even to drive at slow speed while standing, and its SmartDrive power assist for manual wheelchairs enables users to go up hills and ramps through actions controlled by a Bluetooth wristband.

The discreet unit is compact and lightweight and clips onto the back of the wheelchair. Whenever energy levels are low or a challenging obstacle is reached, users simply tap their device and the SmartDrive takes over.

It has a range of around 20km and weighs just under 6 kgs. Another useful addition is the company’s Connect Me system – currently on trial in some EU countries and coming to the UK soon. The wheelchair is equipped with a GPS device with a SIM card module connected to an app.

It enables users to contact a service hub for possible faults to be diagnosed remotely. Good seating and positioning is an important aspect of the Permobil philosophy, not only from a clinical point of view, but also to provide maximum  comfort by being highly adjustable to individual needs.

As the body moves and changes over the course of a day, month or year, the cushion adapts to ensure a user is always  optimally seated.

A nice feature from a travel perspective is that you can transfer your ROHO cushion to an airplane, train or bus seat, helping you to maintain your comfort and leaving you to enjoy the journey.

“It’s vital that our products are adaptable for the user – not the other way around. User centric design that focuses on first and foremost functionality, comfort, quality of life. If you are comfortable and mobile, then you can get a lot more done during the day,” says Cunningham.

Add to that the likes of the LED lights, puncture free tyres, on-chair phone charging ports and holders for phones and tablets, which are increasingly becoming standard features, and the appeal of manual and power assisted wheelchairs has never been greater.

For more information on Permobil products, visit www.permobil.com or contact info@permobil.co.uk.

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