I admit that as a manual wheelchair user with a C6 level spinal cord injury, I haven’t explored the nooks and crannies of our great backyard not nearly as much as I should, especially when it comes to the roads-less-trodden. Being an urban city-dweller with wheelchair skills even my therapist would be disappointed in, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to explore the outdoors. I simply lacked the confidence, and made do with the mobility equipment that I was so used to.
So, I saw the task of being both the project lead and “test pilot” of the just-launched Permobil X850 as a personal opportunity. It was as though the gods themselves were telling me to step outside my comfort one and get my wheels dirty. “Alright, fine,” I said. It’s an understatement to say I was ill-prepared for the rush of speed and freedom along bumpy terrain!
A bit of background to this formidable piece of assistive technology. Built as an off-road, cross-country power wheelchair, Permobil’s X850 has made a long-awaited return to the Australian market following a hiatus. It’s now back with updated rehab seating, bringing it in line with the latest offerings from Permobil that feature Corpus 3G seating systems and power seat functions.
Not wanting to waste a moment of fame and glory, my partner and I put our hands up to be the talents behind the launch video and photo materials. What better way to start a new career? Jests aside, I quickly discovered just what I’ve been missing out on. No, not the early starts at film shoots, but powered mobility turned up to 11. Seriously.
The Permobil X850 simply hauls across paddocks, gravel and dirt paths. The last time I meaningfully used a power chair was during my rehab days many years ago and being so used to a manual chair (with the occasional boost from a power assist device), this experience was just liberating.
Once the day was done, I was just about ready to take it home! Given that the range on this thing is 35-45 km (!), I might’ve made it home without the car too. Off-road AT has long been on my mind for my next NDIS plan review, and it’s a no-brainer that this is making the short list!
To check out this launch video of the Permobil X850, head to the Permobil website.
Sergei Lazarev is a Marketing Specialist with Permobil Australia.
This feature first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.