In March we started trying mobility equipment for Sebastian. With the help of services at Holland Bloorview and the vendor Motion Specialties, we were able to trial an adaptive stroller AND manual wheelchair for two weeks each. Although Sebastian enjoys a stroller ride on a sunny day, I felt unsure that it would continue to be age appropriate for him to have a stroller as his main means of transportation. Due to funding, mobility equipment needs to last 3-5 years, meaning Sebastian would be between 6-8 when he would be able to switch from the stroller to wheelchair. That didn’t seem age appropriate to me. Having the opportunity to try both at home, in the car, at school and in therapies made a huge difference.
Bingo Adaptive Stroller (very similar to the Kimba Adaptive Stroller). The major bonus with the stroller is that the seat can be removed and placed on an indoor base which is a high-low base on wheels. This was great for being at school. Sebastian’s classroom isn’t very large, so maneuvering the stroller to the table for snack time wasn’t as ideal as putting the seat on the high-low base. Although it was an option, it wasn’t an easy switch after first, so when I was in a hurry to feed Sebastian, I didn’t take the time to switch from stroller to base. Sebastian’s feet also didn’t reach the stroller foot tray, so a foam base would need to be created for his feet to rest on.
The Bingo stroller is BIG. It is very wide and didn’t fit through all of our doorways easily. It is also very HEAVY. Getting it into and out of the back of our Subaru Forester (2005) was not easy and it took a few times before I was probably even doing it safely in terms of leg and back support. It also took up a lot of room, especially if we fit the base in as well, leaving little to no space for additional items. I know many people with kids with mobility disabilities have mini-vans. At the time of purchasing our car, it was not an option for us.
Of course the stroller was great for walking through the neighborhood or being out and about and eating. It offered Sebastian the support he needed while also providing shelter from weather with it’s large sun visor and rain cover. We went to the CN Tower with the Bingo on a very cold and sunny day, Sebastian was nestled safely in his cocoon. He was also able to eat lunch easily and have a place to rest when tired. We had extra room beneath the stroller for our bag of tricks, food and meds for Sebastian. This is definitely a plus for the stroller.
Despite the gorgeous photos my hubby took and the fun outings we went on to try the Bingo in all situations, before we even got the wheelchair to trial, I was pretty sure the wheelchair would be the way to go. Mainly due to age appropriateness, but also because the stroller was too big and heavy. Would I have wanted the stroller had Sebastian been younger and then worked our way up to a wheelchair? Not likely. Sebastian wasn’t even keen to sit in a stroller until he was a year old. And the ones we started with were easily modified to offer the extra support he needed. We also traveled quite a bit and lived in a country without much accessibility, so using the strollers we had/have worked best for us. Although I liked the option of the stroller seat base moving onto the high-low base for eating and play, I would have preferred a special seat for these activities, not needing to use them as a mobility option as well.
Zippie Quickie Tilt Wheelchair
One of the main things Sebastian needs is the option for tilt for when he gets tired and has trouble keeping his head up. This was an option with the Zippie Quickie Tilt so we tried it out. Right away I liked the size of the chair. It was easy to maneuver at school and into and out of the car. Although it’s not light by any means, it is much easier to lift into the car in one go, without even needing to break it down. Because the size is smaller, it’s also less awkward to lift in and out. There was some room for groceries as well, although one of the back seats was down for the handle bars. We also had the opportunity to use the chair at therapy and took it out for a neighborhood walk on an overcast day. The huge bonus for Sebastian being in the stroller was the sun visor. I think that for a walk along our nearby nature path I’m more likely to take the stroller or even our carrier. If eating is not involved, we do ok without the additional support a wheelchair provides. Unfortunately we didn’t get a nice photo shoot of the wheelchair.
As I mentioned before, using the wheelchair is also more age appropriate. Some people asked about the manual versus the electric. Getting a manual wheelchair now is beneficial because if we do need an electric one later, it will be good to have the manual in situations where the electric is too heavy. Not to mention that we just don’t have the car or home for an electric wheelchair at the moment. We were advised to get the manual first because getting funding to get a manual after having an electric is pretty much impossible. This way we can have both if necessary.
We decided on the wheelchair over the stroller. Since we were deciding between two different types of equipment, we didn’t then decide between different brands, like this wheelchair versus another brand of wheelchair. Before our trials I did research different types of both adaptive strollers and wheelchairs on blogs and online support groups, which helped me choose our vendor. I felt like the vendor we chose had options that seemed good for us. If you are researching the best seating/mobility equipment for your child, have a look at Bird on the Street’s info page on equipment.
A word about time lines and funding: Under the government health care system (OHIP), you first sit on a wait list for the seating clinic. You choose a vendor from a list and then once you tell them they put you on another wait list for the actual seating clinic appointment. We had met our vendor when trying some seating options through a private clinic where Sebastian attends feeding/speech therapy when he was still seeing an OT there (when we could afford it). We waited about 6 months before we got into the seating clinic. We had one month of trialing the equipment then another month to get the paperwork and insurance approval. We wait 3-4/4-6 months for additional funding from a government program (ADP) which helps fund equipment. Last week I sadly discovered that there was a slight glitch in paperwork and the right forms were not submitted to our insurance company by the vendor when I thought they were (miscommunication). Although it’s pretty definite they will cover the cost the ADP funding doesn’t cover under our plan, we have to wait until both funding has been approved to get the chair. We should get Sebastian’s wheelchair this summer.