Leave it to German engineers to come up with a way to turn skis into a winter mobility aid for friends who use wheelchairs! Wheelblades are small, modified skis that attach to the front wheels of wheelchairs, drastically improving mobility in winter weather, especially snowy and icy conditions.
Invented by a quadriplegic, Wheelblades have been used to enhance winter mobility in Europe for some time, but they are now available for purchase within the United States. According to their creator, Patrick Mayer, wheelblades were not made with a financial goal in mind. He designed them out of sheer need, after struggling through the harsh winters of Germany for more than 12 years after he became an incomplete quadriplegic.
Mayer says, “It has always made me very sad that wintertime limited my mobility so severely and that I had to make plans how I was traveling. I, who have always loved winter and snow, was surprised to find out that there was not a single, reasonably priced mobility aid [for use in snow] on the market, one which could be attached and removed using basic manual skills.”
Knowing firsthand that the front wheels on a wheelchair have a tendency to sink in the snow, making moving or even staying in the chair difficult, Mayer set out to create a handy device that was reliable, reasonably priced and helpful in getting fellow wheelchair users out of the house and around town during snowy or icy weather.
How Wheelblades Work
The wide Wheelblade contact surface distributes the wheelchair user’s pressure evenly onto the ground and prevents the small front wheels from sinking into the snow. The blades glide over the ground with very little resistance and have no problem navigating rough spots. In order for the ski to move in the desired direction at all times, the binding was moved to the front part of the ski. No matter where you want to go – your Wheelblades know the way.
- Easy attachment process requires little hand strength.
- Switching back and forth from blades to wheels can be done quickly and without problems.
- Due to their convenient size and minimal weight, you can take your Wheelblades wherever you go.
- High-end, robust materials make the skis shock- and fraction-proof.
- Thanks to the adjustable clamp lock, Wheelblades can be used anywhere.
- Wheelblades enable helpers to push wheelchair users through the snow or over ice easily.
Wheelblades Launch in the US, Beginning With Minnesota
It makes sense that Wheelblades would be tested by US consumers in Minnesota, right? The snowy, frigid winters that Minnesota is famous for create the perfect environment for trying out this new device.
Sam and Tracy Tabaka, of Rogers, Minn., have never allowed their wheelchairs to hold them back. The Takabas are the first Minnesotans to give Wheelblades a trial run in winter weather. In a recent television interview with CBS, Sam Tabaka said, ““It definitely allows me to be more independent. It’s changed my outlook on what I can do in winter on my own.”
See the full CBS interview on their experience with Wheelblades here: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2014/01/02/wheelblades-helping-people-in-wheelchairs-stay-active-in-the-snow/
According to the manufacturer website, wheelblades are not impervious to winter accidents including slips and falls. If the surface is too soft or the snow too high, even large wheels will hit their limits and you won’t be able to move even if you are using your Wheelblades. Wheelchairs are subject to the same rules as road traffic – no winter tires =no mobility in snow. Consider adding a pair of winter tires to your wheelchair as well as Wheelblades for maximum stability and mobility.
Also, when using Wheelblades, do not tip back on your rear wheels, as this increases your risk of an accident. More safety information available here: http://www.wheelblades.ch/en/Produkt/Warnhinweis.php
Wheelblades cost $365 a pair and can be purchased online at: http://www.wheelblades.ch/en/index.php