Monday, July 21, 2008

PAWS wheelchair

Whoa, I'm digging this chair:

Love how you can keep the wheels in the same
position and spin the seat.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I'm really interested in this chair and there
is very little information about it on the
internet. Check this out though:

Their webpage says the project started in 2001, but
I'm wondering how long it's been on the market.
Selling price? Can you raise the seat so that
you are eye level with a standing adult? Does
it go through sand and gravel? These are the
things I need to find out.

Another stair climbing wheelchair

Whoa, I know nothing about this chair other than
what I see in this video and what I've read on
their website, but this looks really great for
stair climbing. Better than the iBOT even.
The stair climbing function is the biggest
disappointment about the iBOT.

The sad thing is, it'll probably never go anywhere
because there's no money in it since Medicare
would classify it as a "luxury" and therefore
not pay for any of it which means most people
wouldn't be able to purchase one, just like the
iBOT. There is amazing technology out there and
there could be a completely knock your socks off
wheelchair, but someone brilliant and well-known
like Dean Kamen has to be behind it, and a
huge company with tons of money, like Johnson
and Johnson, has to market it.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What to do when you have a flat

The iBOT manual says to not drive the iBOT
if it has a flat. In my opinion, that's a
ridiculously unrealistic statement. These
tires are not easy to get on and off. The
guy at the bike store yesterday who had
experience and proper tools took at least
15 minutes and a whole lot of swearing to
change just one tire. (He didn't swear
out loud, but I know that it's a lot of
work and I'm pretty sure some bad words
were said in his head!) I know I wouldn't
be able to change a tire myself, and I'm
not about to a) carry the proper tools with
me wherever I go and b) ask an average person
to change it for me. In addition to not
being able to change it myself or ask a
Bob Smith to do it for me, there is no emergency
wheelchair flat tire fixing service such as
AAA. I can't even call a friend to come
pick me up because I can't get the iBOT
into their cars. I could call a cab, but
finding one with a wheelchair lift to come
out right away probably wouldn't be easy.
A reader of this blog suggested public
transportation, which is a great idea...
however, I haven't looked into that yet.
I don't know if they'd be able to take
me to my house, or just the nearest bus
stop which is 2 blocks away. Besides, I
might be in a different town/city where
they do not have accessible public transport
and/or taxi cabs.

Whenever I get a flat, people always say,
"Why not just switch the clusters so that
the flat wheel in the back is in the front?"
That is what I did do when I got my last
flat, but I was really uncomfortable doing
it because you just never know if the iBOT
is going to perform normally with a flat
tire. I've since talked with IT (Independence
Technology) and here is what they recommend:

While in Standard Function, transition to
4-Wheel Drive. Drive the iBOT in 4-Wheel
Drive to a place that can fix it. Rolling
with a flat in 4-Wheel Drive function is much
better than Standard Function because the
other 3 wheels will help keep the weight off
of the flat one.

While rolling in 4-Wheel Drive with a flat
tire could result in wheel damage, the guy at
IT said it's highly unlikely to get damaged
as long as I'm not going over rocks or going
a very far distance. If it did damage the
wheel, I'd have to pay for the cost of a
new wheel, plus a service call because
a tech would have to put the new wheel
on. Putting on the new wheel is NOT something
a bike shop could do. I asked IT how much a
new wheel costs, and he didn't know off the
top of his head, but he's going to find out
and let me know. However much it is though,
I'd rather risk damaging the wheel than
switching the clusters and possibly having
the chair flip over backward or throw me out

**Some iBOT users do switch the clusters when
they get a flat (and I did it once by using the
stair climbing function), but IT does not
recommend doing this.**

Some random recommendations:
1. Always carry a spare tube with you.
Your local bike shop will not have the right
size tube.
2. If you've got the room, always carry
a spare tire with you.
3. Carry the number of public transport
and taxi services.
4. IT has a 24-hour support line.
5. If traveling with an iBOT, bring along
a spare manual wheelchair. If you don't have
a spare manual chair, you can purchase a
cheap lightweight foldable travel chair for
about $150.
6. Possible places to fix a flat: bike
shops, Les Schwab, probably gas stations.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Better day

Yesterday's post title should have read, "Bad
crip day", or maybe just "Bad day". We all
have them, disabled or not. The iBOT is a
great mobility device that has changed my
life and I shouldn't have whined about it. It
was just a bad day and I blamed it mostly on the
iBOT, which I shouldn't have.

Just to clarify, IT is Independence Technology.
They provide iBOT tech support and they have
nothing to do with the design (except for
giving the engineers feedback probably). DEKA
is Dean Kamen's company. They are the people
who designed and who make the iBOT.

I took my BOT to the bike shop today. I decided
to put a new tire on the wheel that keeps popping.
I also decided that instead of changing just one
tire, I'd change them all. I could have called
IT and had them send a tech to change the tires
for me, but that would have cost me $90 for the
service call (as least I thought it would since
I didn't think it was covered under warranty). So
I decided to take it to the bike shop where
they only charged me $5.00 per wheel = $20.00.
They're super nice... it took them well over an
hour to get the new ones on. I know they must
cringe every time they see me coming in! I think
all the guys in the shop try to ignore me as long
as possible and hope that one of their co-workers
will find out what I need. LOL! Getting these
tires on and off is not easy.

At the bike shop they changed all four tires and
they thoroughly inspected the one that keeps popping
for anything that might be causing the flats. They
found nothing. I've been home for a few hours now
and no flat so far. Oh, also, when I ordered my
last set of tubes from IT, they also sent me these
rubber things. I don't know what they're called,
but basically it puts a layer of rubber between
the tube and the wheel. That should help prevent

When I got home from the bike shop, there was a
message from IT. They said they wanted to send
a tech here to inspect the wheels and try to
determine what the problem is. They said they
were also going to give me 4 new tubes since I've
been going through so many lately. They said it
will be covered under warranty, so I'm cool with
that. As I've said before, IT tech support is

Still no call back from DEKA. I called them again
this afternoon and left another message. I still
want to ask them about switching the clusters when
there is a flat. Will post again when I do hear
from them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bad iBOT day

Today has not been a good iBOT day. I still
love my bot, but today I'm frustrated with
the tires. This will probably be a long post,
but I'm doing it mainly for my own personal
documentation. If you don't have an iBOT
yourself or you don't know much about it, the
following will probably be of no interest to

I called IT this morning to ask about switching
the clusters when there is a flat tire involved.
I asked them if there have been tests done to
see if, while switching the clusters, the bot
performs the same way with a flat as it does
when there isn't a flat. I've tested switching
the clusters with no flats, and it worked well.
I don't want to test it with a flat though
because I don't feel like being a crash test

IT didn't know if it has been tested. They also
didn't know how I could go about finding an
answer to my question. He looked up flat tire
information in the manual and it said that if you
get a flat, don't move the iBOT. It could "result
in serious injury or death". So, uh, what am I
supposed to do? Call AAA? Obviously you have to
move the bot when it has a flat. IT said the
only thing they could recommend I do is check the
tire pressure every day.

Since I didn't get my question answered (btw, IT
is always very nice and helpful, but they are
tech support only and they have nothing to do with
any sort of testing), I called a friend of mine
who also has an iBOT. He suggested I called
DEKA and talk to one of the engineers there. I
called. The person she transferred me to wasn't
at his desk so I left him a message to call me
back. I waited around for about an hour hoping
he'd call, but he didn't. I had to go to the
grocery store and so I left the house, in balance,
and went to the store which is approximately 15
blocks away. As I'm in the check-out line, the
lady behind me says, "It looks like you have
a flat." ARGGG! Not another flat. This is
getting old. I didn't know what to do because
my house and van were about 15 blocks from the
store. That's too far to roll on a flat. I
thought about switching the clusters, but I was
worried the bot might tip over or throw me out
if I attempted to do that. So I decided to go
down to 4-Wheel Function the normal way. Strangely,
it didn't shoot me forward like it did last time
I did that. It went to 4-Wheel and then Standard
with no issues. But there I was in the store
with a rear flat. My choices were, limp all
the way home which would definitely ruin the wheel,
go back into balance and force it to go into 4-wheel
by tipping it forward so that the clusters would
switch, or doing the stair climbing thing to switch
the clusters. I was nervous about trying either
one of the cluster switching ways because as I said
before, I don't know if the BOT would behave the
same way.

Lucky for me, my bf works in my neighborhood. I
called him and he met me at the store. He's been
trained on stair climbing and he's a mechanical
engineer, so I trusted he would know what would
be the best thing to do. We decided to use the
Stair-Climbing Function to switch the clusters.
I didn't do the stair climbing myself, he did
it. It worked. The clusters switched and I
rolled home in Standard Function with the flat
tire in the front and slightly raised.

My concerns:

1) Why do I keep getting flats? Someone just recently
asked me about the frequency of flats and I said that
I didn't think it was too bad. I've changed my mind.
Something needs to be done to prevent these flats.

2) Someone needs to answer my question about switching
the clusters when there is a flat.

3) Why is it that last time I had a flat tire when I
was in Balance Function, it shot me forward about
5 feet when I made the transition to 4-Wheel Function,
but today it didn't do that?

Ugh. I'm having van issues as well. The ramp broke,
the service engine soon light is on, the speedometer
and the other things on the dash aren't working. T'is
a sucky crip day.

Also, I have to get new caster wheels for the bot. I'll
post more about that tomorrow probably. $120 for two
new pieces of rubber. I can think of a least a gagillion
other things I'd rather spend $120 on.

Stress headache about to make my head explode. Sorry to
complain so much. I just need to vent every once in awhile.
To end on a happy note, I just saw my hair in the mirror and
it's shiny. :D

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The correct way to climb stairs

In the post below (the one titled "New
Video"), I climb one step in order to
switch the clusters. I didn't do a good
job climbing the step. You can hear the
iBOT beep at me, telling me that was too
rough. Luckily I didn't throw a wrench.
Throwing a wrench means something didn't
perform the way it was supposed to. IT
wants to know about these things. So a
wrench shows up on the UCP, and you get
locked out of every function except for
standard. Clearing the wrench is most
likely just a call to IT and they clear
it remotely.

Anyway, there is a technique to make stair
climbing smoother than what you see in my
video. Since I almost never use the Stair
Climbing Function, I don't have this technique
down. In the following video, you can see how
smooth stair climbing is supposed to be.

And one more way to switch the clusters

But like I said in my last post, I'm not sure
how it will perform if it has a flat.

New video

One way to switch the clusters:

My only concern is that the chair will not behave
the same way with a flat. I'll give IT and call
to find out if it's been tested.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Creature Discomforts

The following post has nothing to do with the iBOT,
but it is about disability.

To watch their fabulous ads, go to

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How to switch the clusters

I spoke with IT this morning and they told
me a couple of ways to switch the clusters
so that if I get a flat, I can easily switch
them so that I'm not rolling on the flat.

Note: I've most likely been given this info
in the past. My brain didn't retain it. Now
that I've been in a situation where it would
have been really helpful to know how to do
it, and also now that I'm writing this, I will
hopefully remember it, lol!

Okay, so I'm botting around and suddenly I
have a flat. What I've always done in the
past was stop whatever I was doing and go
straight to the bike shop to have them fix
it. As of today, I know a better way.

All I have to do is put it in stair climbing
function, go up one step, switch to 4-wheel
drive function while the first set of the
clusters are resting on the first step. Then
drive forward, go back into standard function,
and I'll be wheeling on the un-flat wheel
which has traded places with the flat wheel.

Another way to do it is if I am in balance,
I can force the chair to "fall" from balance
to 4-wheel by making the chair tilt forward
(see my last post). This will cause an
abrupt and uncomfortable "crash", but it will
switch the clusters. The person at IT tried
it today while I was speaking with her. I
don't think I'll give it a try myself
because it sorta hurts, but it's good
to know.

I think tomorrow I will try the stair-climbing
way to switch the clusters. If I do, I'll
have my daughter film it and I'll post it here.

I kind of wonder about climbing a step with
a flat... sounds a little risky to me, but IT
said it was okay to do. They should know!
Then again, maybe they've never done it with a
flat. If anyone reading this knows this is
not a safe thing to do, please leave me a

And now, my daughter wants to go for a walk.
Because of the iBOT, I am happy to go on a
walk with her on this beautiful evening. : )

Traveling with the iBOT

I had my first traveling experience with
the iBOT this past weekend. I didn't take
it on an airplane, but it was the first
time I took it somewhere and had to bring
the charger along. I stayed in the Puget
Sound area in WA for two nights. The iBOT
was wonderful to have on vacation. We did
much "walking" which would have been a major
pain had I been using my manual. We walked
(er, I botted) from our hotel to the main
part of town. Doing that in my manual would
have been impossible, especially in the heat.
There was a nice long boardwalk that we went
on which ended at a park with trails. Although
the boardwalk would have been okay with my
manual, the park would have been very difficult.
The iBOT had no trouble going on the trails.
The iBOT made the trip much, much easier for me.

I did have one problem. We were over a mile
away from our hotel and I was in Balance. I
turned a corner and it caused the tire to come
off. Although I'm not positive why this
happened, we noticed there was a nut missing.
Apparently the guy at the bike shop who fixed
the flat two days earlier failed to put the
nut on. So I had a flat. Again. It was
completely flat and I didn't want to roll
on it anymore than I had to. So I sat in
the shade and my sister looked in the town's
phone book for a bike shop. No bike shop.
My traveling companion walked back to the
hotel and drove my van over. I limped the
bot to the van and we drove it to a Les
Schwab to see if they would fix it for me.
The lady behind the counter was very reluctant
to help. She was worried about liability.
But then a young guy came to the desk and
he said he'd be happy to do it for me. I
gave him a new tube and the bot and he took
it into the shop and fixed it for me... no
charge. Very nice guy, unlike the selfish,
nail-biting twit I first spoke with. He did
an excellent job and I went about the rest of
my vacation with no problems.


-Always carry a spare tube with you. There
ought to be a little pouch somewhere on the
iBOT specifically for a spare tube.

-If possible, travel with a manual chair as
a backup.

-If a person isn't willing to help, don't give
up, ask someone else. Not everyone in America
is scared of getting sued.

This morning when I talked to IT, they told me
how I could have switched the clusters so that
the good tire infront of the flat tire could
be used to roll on instead of rolling on the
rim of the flat tire. And writing that just
now made me realize that I should have just
called IT when it happened. D'oh! They have
a 24-hour tech support line. I knew that, but
didn't remember it when I was in the situation.
Anyway, I don't feel like writing about it right
now. I will write about it later.


Last Thursday I got out of my van to go into the
library and when I made the transition to Balance,
it started dithering quite a bit. The dithering
and the sound of squishing rubber on the sidewalk
and I knew I had a flat. The extra dithering didn't
make it feel unstable, but I knew I should transition
back to Standard Function. I went back to Standard
with no issues. I then took the bot and a new tube
to my local bike shop. They took the tire off for me
and put the new tube in (charged me $5). Apparently
the guy didn't put the tire on correctly because
after leaving the store, I went up into Balance
and the dithering was quite a bit. Enough to scare
me. My first thought was to transition to 4-Wheel
and then Standard, but it was dithering so much and
I felt like it was really unstable. In order to
make the Balance to 4-Wheel transition, the seat
needs to lean way back. I was nervous that tipping
it back like that would be enough to make it tip
over. So then I thought about getting the bike
shop guys to pick me up out of the chair and let
it fall. I decided against that because without my
weight in it when it's in Balance, I don't know
what it would have done. So I went back to my
original thought and made the transition to 4-
Wheel Drive. It didn't tip over, but it did
suddenly shoot forward about 5 feet, which was
a little scary. It wasn't enough to throw me out
of the chair, and I didn't run into anything or
anyone, but I'm thankful that there wasn't a curb
or a building or a person to crash into. LESSON
LEARNED: When in Balance with a flat, make sure
there is plenty of room in front and behind you before
you make the transition to 4-Wheel. Common sense?
Yes. But sometimes common sense isn't there when
in a scary situation. (I spoke with IT this morning
about it, and they weren't sure why it shot forward
like it did.)

While on the phone with IT, I asked if there was
a way to force it to "fall" from Balance to 4-Wheel.
There is, and the IT person I was speaking to got
in an iBOT while we spoke and made it do it.
Instead of making the seat lean back, you
make it lean forward. You move the left toggle
to the right corner. It'll start beeping as a
warning, but push the button again and hold it
there and it will fall down to 4-Wheel. I've
unintentionally experienced this "fall" a couple
of times. Although it's abrupt and a bit
unpleasant, it isn't an issue for me, and I
have bad osteoporsis. I would think this might
be a problem for people who live with a lot of
pain though.

So anyway, IT told me I did the right thing
by making the Balance to 4-Wheel transition
the "right" way. But now I know another way
to do it if I need to. I think forcing it
to make the fall would have been less scary,
however, I'm impressed once again at how safe
it is in Balance Function. People ask me
all the time if Balance is scary. It isn't.
They always ask if I'm afraid I'll tip
over. I always say no. Outside the bike
shop when it was dithering a lot because
of the blowout, I was a bit afraid, but
that was the first time. And it ended up
not tipping me over... so I've no doubt how
amazing the balancing function is.