Silver rigid frame with two handlebars, brackets, brakes and leavers; one for acceleration and one for reverse. In addition to a bell, screen display, quick charging battery, and a medium sized wheel.
Battery Life: 15 miles
Source of Item: John Preston
Diagnosis: Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
After years of waiting, in September 2017 I finally received a call to say I had been matched with an assistance dog. But as someone who depends on a carer to push me, I suddenly wanted to be able to independently take my dog for a walk. Due to the nature of my disability, I can’t use an attachment that involves repeatedly moving my arms (e.g. a Wheelchair Hand Bike), so I opted for a Firefly Electric Wheelchair Power Attachment, by Rio Mobility. This device allows me to go anywhere, regardless of whether the terrain is rough or there is a steep gradient.
Before purchasing the attachment, I contacted John Preston who provided me with a lot of information about the device over the phone, as well as checking whether my wheelchair was compatible with the attachment. They then came to do a home assessment, to ensure this was the right device for me. I appreciated the opportunity to test the device in my home environment, as it can be extremely difficult to find a device that perfectly fits your requirements. If I remember correctly, you have to have a manual wheelchair, with a rigid frame; or a folding frame that doesn’t have removable/swing away footplates.
After raising enough money to order the Firefly, I was slightly disappointed with how difficult and time consuming it was to assemble the attachment. There was also one part that arrived damaged; but after getting back in touch to complain and providing photo evidence, a replacement part arrived within a few days. Once everything was set up, I was remembered how to attach the Firefly to my wheelchair following my home assessment.
This device is very simple to operate and has a small display attached to the handlebars that have 3 small buttons. One to turn the display on, then one arrow pointing up and the other pointing down that are used to adjust the speed. The top speed is 12mph, which is great fun when you are in a clear open space, but you certainly don’t need to go that fast most of the time! The handlebars are easy to grip and support your hands very well. I find them very comfy to hold onto and I like that I can alter the angle of the handlebars. You also have two brakes above the handlebars, which are easy to use and are also adjustable. You then have a little leaver under each handlebar that I gently press with my thumb; one to go forward and one to go backward. I was apprehensive about this feature because I was unsure how comfortable it would be to keep my thumb on the leaver; but I was quickly reassured as you can alter the angle of the leaver, meaning I only have to apply a tiny bit of pressure.
The attachment arrived with the forward leaver on the righthand side and the backward leaver on the left, but it is very easy to swap the cables over if you would prefer to have the leavers the other way around. Finally, on the opposite side to the display you have a small bell that has surprisingly come in very handy! One of the main selling points for me was the fact this attachment is very compact in comparison to similar devices and is easy to clip on and off a wheelchair. The lightweight lithium battery attaches onto a slim silver pole that goes from the handlebars, down to the wheel. It has a range of approximately 15 miles and even though you can purchase an additional battery, I found one to be more than manageable. You simply plug the wire into the top of the battery pack and can leave it to charge either on the attachment or after disconnecting it. It is very easy to detach the battery and takes approximately 4 hours to fully charge. Although I often take my charger out to top up the battery if I know I am going to be out for a long period.
The device hooks onto my wheelchair via a simple 2-point attachment system, which makes it very quick and easy to attach and detach the device. I initially found it difficult to guide the hooks onto such a small target, but it has become easier after some practice. I then put both hands in the center of the handlebars and push backward, which then lifts the two caster wheels at the front of my wheelchair so that the single tire on the Firefly can comfortably go over uneven surfaces. For this to happen your wheelchair tips ever so slightly backward, but you are still sat in the same position so it isn’t uncomfortable. Finally, to secure the device you simply flick the leavers on each side of the attachment and you are ready to roll! To remove the device you simply pull back the leavers, lower your wheelchair and lift the device off. I am then usually able to lean forward and place it on the floor, but because it isn’t too heavy it is very easy to pass it sideways to someone else. As this process is simple and the device is compact, it makes it very easy to transport. I can honestly say that my assistance dog takes up more room in my car than the Firefly does!