Friday, March 21, 2008

An interesting comment from a reader

Sands_PhD said...

Well, I have to speak up as a power chair user for 35 years: the iBot is a gimmick. I tested one in '07: they are overpriced, extremely large and heavy, ungainly, unsuited to most urban environment (think of the Segway). Most staircases are too problematic for them to traverse safely unaided. Any netizen is entitled to their opinion and I welcome efforts to advance the technology, but this is a step backwards.

My response:
Thank you for your interesting comment. I disagree with
everything you wrote except for the part about most
staircases being too problematic. The stair climbing
function is the only thing that has disappointed me.

Overpriced - I don't think it is overpriced compared to other
power chairs. In general it is overpriced, but that is no
different from any other durable medical equipment.

Extremely large - I'm surprised you think it's extremely
large. Compared to my manual, it is very large, but
compared to other power chairs, it seems quite reasonable.
In fact, I think it is even narrower than most power chairs.

Heavy - It's close to 300 pounds. I thought it would be

Ungainly - Okay that one I might agree with.

Unsuited to most urban environments - I think the iBOT
is way better suited to urban environments than the average
power chair. We live in a world that is built for
average adult height comfort. Think of all the high
counters, displays that are difficult or impossible
to see when in a seated postion, having conversations
with standing adults, and reaching things on high shelves.

A gimmick? I hear, respect, and can appreciate that you've
expressed this opinion, but I completely disagree.

A step backwards? Really? I hope you elaborate on this.


phmooney said...

I don't have an iBot . . . yet, but I am in the process of trying to get one. Since I test drove and was evaluated, I have become much more aware of all the many things I cannot reach now in my home that I will be able to get to with the iBot. I've only been in a power chair once before, but have seen many in my travels on the local paratransit service, on which I largely depend. Most of these appear more cumbersome, though the size appears to increase with the severity of the disability.

The iBot does not appear to be any wider than my current manual, though I will agree there will be times when it will be inappropriate for my house. The advantages it will provide will outweigh the disadvantages, though like the blog owner I'll transfer from time to time.

At the time of m formal evaluation O told Andy, the iBot rep that I would use the stair climbing facility rarely and only if necessary, but welcomed 4-wheel and balance ("use the hell out of them" is the phrase I used, as I recall). He responded that that is a response they usually get.

The price is expensive; that's why I'm trying to get insurance to pay for it. But nothing so advanced is initially cheap. and like the blog owner's response, I'd like an elaboration on why this is a step backward (as well as what Sands_PhD would consider a step forward). Maybe whatever this is would be a good idea, but he's not Dean Kamen and probably doesn't have the resources to implement whatever his advance would be. And don't get me wrong; if Sands_Phd has a good idea, I wishe he did have the esources to implement it; we all need good ideas.

And, finally, as regards the Segway: is it really unsuited to the urban environment (if that's
what Sands_PhD is saying) or a victim of urban regs designed to curb its use for fear of pedestrian injuries? In the book Seabiscuit, the city council of San Francisco banned motorcars in the city. This ban evaporated when horses refused to draw ambulances into the rubble of the earthquake of 1906 to aid the injured. Cars went there without protest. This is what the Segway faces. The iBot faces similar hurdles, but not so much out of fear as because the cost involved gives a convenient excuse to insurance companies as well as Medicaid and Medicare, who really don't want to pay for anything anyway. An AB with no personal involvement with someone with a disability can sigh about how regrettable it is and turn down an application easily enough.

Sophia's Papa said...

The comments by Sans_PhD and his claims are without merit because they are not backed up with any evidence to support them.

I have found, even before embracing the iBot technology, that comments of those kinds come from people who are mediocre because they cannot get their minds around visionary ideas and innovation. In my experience these folks have been people who prefer the comfort they find in dependency or contentment linked to a victimization or inferiority mentality.

Or they are people who are afraid of vision and innovation because they see it, either consciously or subconsciously as a threat to all or part of their way of life. Still others are people who believe that if an innovation or achievement can't be had by everyone, then it should not be had by anyone - one of the weakest arguments for collectivism.

People like that don't like what geniuses such as Dean Kamen create because they lack the vision to understand what in economics is called "disruptive technology." If they can't stake a claim to the product of the mind of someone like Kamen, if they can't turn men like him into their slaves, then it should not exist.

Here is the truth of our experience with the iBot:

My daughter Sophia, age 8, is the youngest owner of an iBot. I have been told by the folks at Independence Technology that she is the first young child to have been tested for it, let alone pass the test drive, clinical evaluation and training with flying colors. She did her test drive soon after turning 7.

It has changed my daughter's life in a way that no other innovation, medical treatment, piece of equipment or anything else has.

It is as simple as the quiet dignity that she feels as a little girl who can stand, thanks to iBot's balance mode, to say the Pledge of Allegiance or to hear the national anthem. It was an astonishing sight because of its gentle simplicity, which masked the wonder of what ideas it took to conceive that three computers and six gyroscopes would catapult wheelchair technology into the 21st century.

My daughter can dance. Granted, she could always dance, even in her manual wheelchair. But now she can really dance. She goes into balance mode, puts the speed to zero and then she can experience what those of us who can walk and stand on two legs only know. The iBot, like the Segway does, senses her body movements and moves with her. She can spin, she can turn and she can move forward just by leaning a little bit. It is liberating.

And consider this: many of you who walk or who can stand would not understand what it means to be able to get off a Monorail at Disneyland on your own by rolling out flawlessly in four-wheel mode, with the attractions host looking in astonishment as he walks up with the ramp that Sophia would have had to depend on to get out. And the looks of some of the people in line showed a mix of bafflement and awe. Why? She did it herself.

How about being to play on the grass like other kids? Or go to the landfill and to a local farm with her school peers on a field trip? My wife took her to a farm field trip in Sophia's manual chair and it was a disaster. The landfill - no problem thanks to the iBot! How about being able to play on the beach and see her sister surfing, instead of waiting by the pier or in the van? Do you, Sans_PhD, know what that means?

Stairs? Well, for four years we had to pull Sophia in her manual chair up five steps to get into the old Victorian house that is now an office building where her speech therapist works. Before you whine about the Americans with Disabilities Act, it's a historic site that is exempt. Pulling her up in the manual chair wasn't easy. It scared her sometimes and it just was plain undignified and a little dangerous. With the iBot? No problem! There are no handrails, so with absolutely no physical effort on my or my wife's part, we use the rear assist bar and Sophia sails up the steps confidently in just seconds.

This might also not seem like a big deal to some people, but as Sophia's friend had to sit and wait as the folks at their school tried to figure out what was jamming the lift to get them off the stage after an awards ceremony - and everyone was sitting their waiting and staring at them - Sophia could just make her way down the several steps and get down.

Size and maneuverability? The iBot is taller than Sophia's manual chair because of the auto safety headrest and the placement of the computers, batteries and other equipment. But it's actually narrower.

The iBot turns on a dime in four-wheel mode, so it's actually easier to get her into our minivan and turn her 90 degrees to have her face forward and tie down the wheelchair. The front-door threshold is no problem, and now it doesn't matter if we park in our driveway next to the grass, and we don't have to move our car so the van can park int he center of the driveway anymore.

And inside the house? The iBot's movements are more precise than what she could do with her manual chair, and the tighter turning circle and narrower wheelbase has actually made it much, much easier for her to get around the house. And balance mode does wonders for her being able to get books off the shelf without having to ask us. Oh yeah, she can help us cook now, like kids in other families can do.

I don't expect everyone to understand all of this. And you can laugh at the tongue-in-cheek quote by the fictional author Jose Chung on the television show "Millenium:" "This is how it will all end. Not with floods, earthquakes, falling comets … or gigantic crabs roaming the Earth. No. Doomsday will start simply out of indifference."

Yeah, it was a comedic line delivered by the late great Charles Nelson Reilly, but its true. We're changing the world. And some people just don't get it, or they just don't like it.

I leave you with this: What Albert Einstein once said is very true - that "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

Sophia's Papa said...

Oh yeah, as if I wasn't long-winded already, I did forget to add that a government official or legislator who would ban a Segway in a pedestrian environment is just another example of the truth of the inefficiency and lack of originality in government.

Many of these politicians, bureaucrats and administrators don't have a creative bone in their body. What passes as vision in government is proof of why most people in the government are in government and not in the private economy, where people actually produce something. If you expect them to come to your rescue or you depend on them for your salvation, you'll die doing so.

Like stairs, curbs or a trash can left in the middle of a sidewalk, they're just in the way. We prefer to just go around them. And we can with the iBot. If you want to wait for someone to move my allegorical trash can out of your way, we'll wave as we go past you and move forward. I have no problem leaving you behind because you're welcome to find the future with us.

Anonymous said...

Why did the stair-climbing mode disappoint you? I am close to making a decision to get an iBOT. Mostly for the 4 wheel drive.

Wheelchair Revolution/These Things Make Me Happy said...

Thanks for your thoughtful responses phmooney and sophia's papa. I hope Sans comes back to respond, although I doubt he will. Actually, I even wonder if the person truly is a wheelchair user.

Sophia's Papa, I am so happy for your daughter! I was injured when I was 8 years old. An iBOT would have made a world of difference for me. I thought they weren't making the iBOT available to children. So glad they are!

You wrote, "It has changed my daughter's life in a way that no other innovation, medical treatment, piece of equipment or anything else has." That is fantastic!

Wheelchair Revolution/These Things Make Me Happy said...

Hi anonymous, I'm sure you would not be disappointed with the 4-wheel drive function of the iBOT. It's fabulous.

As for my disappointment with the stair-climbing function, I was hoping to use it to get into my friend's houses. This isn't possible on my own because almost none of the steps to their houses have the required railing. I could get in their houses if they were trained on assisting me, but if you don't know what you are doing (or forget because you haven't done it in a long time), you can get into big trouble. Before I got the BOT, I thought I'd easily be able to explain to anyone how to do it. That is not the case. I wouldn't be comfortable just telling someone how to do it. I'd want them to be trained.

I hope you get one! Please let me know!

stephanie said...

Sophia's Papa,

I am so please that your daughter is doing so well with her Ibot. It was noce to read.

Anonymous said...

For me being able to take a "walk" with my friends is priceless. With the iBot in balance mode, I can carry on a conversation at eye level while walking around the neighborhood with my friends. I love being able to look people in the face again. The view from my manual wheelchair is not nearly as pleasant.

The four-wheel-drive function allows me to traverse the rather treacherous sidewalks and curbs that I encounter getting from my house to downtown. It also allows me to get into most of the older buildings in downtown. Almost all of the older buildings have one step up to get into them.

I find that the stairclimbing feature is not something that I can generally able to use by myself because so few stairs have the correct type of railing if any railing at all. However, several of my friends and husband have been trained on how to assist with stairclimbing and that feature allows me to get into my friends' houses or older buildings that would not normally be wheelchair accessible.