Updated: Feb 7, 2019
Multiple Sclerosis has certainly taken a lot from my wife - her ability to drive, to work, to walk, and so much more. All of those deficiencies add up to a lack of independence. The formula these past several years has been quite simple: increase the amount of dependence and you increase the level of frustration. Increase the level of independence and you introduce more happiness. I look for ways to make my wife more independent so she can be more of who she thinks she should be.
Over the past four years we have acquired a veritable showroom of walkers and wheelchairs. We progressed rapidly through the cane phase, then moved to walkers (several different kinds - seated and non-seated), and for over the last two years we have been planted firmly in wheelchair territory. At some point a few years ago we purchased a Go-Go Elite Scooter for Sue to get around grocery stores and also to cruise around the neighborhood on nice evenings to spend more time outdoors. However, transferring into the Go-Go has turned into a bit of a challenge since you have to step into the device in order to get seated. Sue also has trouble steering the Go-Go and operating the gas "pedal" with her hand.
It looked as if I would be manually pushing her in a standard wheelchair anywhere we went which once again meant an increased lack of independence. Then I found the Model X Power Chair on 1-800-Wheelchair.com.
What is it?
The Model X is a lithium-ion battery powered wheelchair that is operated with a simple joystick for navigation. It has a top speed of 5 mph and can travel up to 8 miles on its standard battery or up to 13 miles when purchasing the optional larger battery. What makes the Model X unique is its ability to be folded like a standard wheelchair when transporting it from place to place in your car.
Build Quality and Comfort
The Model X is very solidly built with a full steel frame and heavy duty, flat-free wheels. The arm rests are easy to flip up and down for times when the driver would like to get closer to a table for instance. There are connecting wires to the joystick and power module and those wires are wire-tied to the frame nicely so they aren't hanging loosely off the side of the unit. The foot rests are permanently attached but can be swung out of the way when exiting the chair. I do have some concerns about the longevity of the power module and joystick control unit, but I have not experienced a failure with either one yet.
Using the Model X
My wife enjoys using the Model X but she does have some issues with the joystick navigation. She will admit to not being the most coordinated individual - which has only gotten worse with her MS - so her experience with the Model X will certainly differ from others. I've sat in the chair and tested it myself and I find the joystick very responsive and easy to use. There are multiple speed settings available at the push of a button. Pushing forward on the joystick moves the Model X forward and releasing the joystick stops it.
Transporting the Model X
The product weighs roughly 35 lbs. so it certainly isn't as light as a feather, but it's much lighter and more convenient than something like the Go-Go Scooter which has a combined weight of 92 lbs. It's only fair to mention however, that the Go-Go can be disassembled, where the Model X cannot. Though the listed weight is only 32 lbs. the Model X does feel heavier than that when loading into a vehicle since it is a bit cumbersome to handle. It also doesn't fold easily due to its heavy-duty construction.
The Model X has a Bluetooth app you can download onto your phone that will allows you to control all the settings on your chair. Most importantly, the app gives you real time information on your battery life and mileage. The app also has an incredibly cool feature for those living alone or who are at home alone often - you can control your chair by remote which would be very helpful in cases where you want to bring your chair closer to you from across the room.
Would I Recommend the Model X?
The Model X costs much more than a traditional scooter. It starts at $1,999 before additional extras or accessories. I purchased this chair out of necessity. My wife had gotten to a point where transferring into a scooter was becoming a safety issue and transferring into a traditional wheelchair was an easier option. The Model X does provide that much needed does of independence while shopping or when we're out and about. We don't take it everywhere as Sue isn't very confident in her ability to control it in large groups of people, but she enjoys it on walks in the park and even using it around the house from time-to-time. The build quality is excellent, though it came shipped in a rather flimsy box from 1-800Wheelchair.com and also came with no documentation. That was a bit disappointing for such a high priced item. If your spouse is able to transfer well into a scooter, I'm not sure the Model X is worth the price. However, this device is much more compact and easier to transport so a purchasing decision will have to be based on your individual needs.
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