I have used a rigid-frame wheelchair ever since I left my almer mater, Stoke Mandeville, in 1986. They are lighter, less ‘wobbly’ to steer over rough ground, cheaper (usually), and they fulfill my prejudice that the less equipment you need, the less disabled you feel. I know, who cares? I do.
The only problem is, they take up a lot of space in the car and they usually need to go in an airliner’s hold. I went through more than 20 years of uncertainty, every time I flew, as to whether my chair would turn up where I had left it, outside the main door. Quite often, my £2,500-worth of titanium would head off to the carousel like the rest of the baggage, leaving me to feel like shit as I faced being pushed to Arrivals like a cripple. I always flatly refused to experience that ride and once waited 90 minutes after ‘doors open’ for my chair to be retrieved. It really pisses off the oncoming crews trying to make a pushback slot.
Nowadays airlines, dispatchers and flight crews seem to have their act together and appear to know what we expect. Recent trips have been trouble-free. But if it can happen to Frank Gardner in 2018, then it can still happpen to any of us. So it’s still true to say, there’s no substitute for having it in the cabin with you.
If you fly Business Class in a Boeing 747-400, a rigid frame will fit in the cabin wardrobe. Otherwise, you might consider the RGK Tiga FX chair, which fits in a standard overhead locker. Like most chairs this clever device has a folding back, but it also has a folding front frame that reduces it to — in the manufacturer’s words — the size of a briefcase. Well it would have to be a pretty damn full briefcase, to be sure, but I get their point.
There’s a dreadful demo video here.
I asked for a quote. Fellow raspberries will not be surprised to learn that a basic TIga FX – minus cushion, minus scissor brakes and so on, costs over £3,000 of your English pounds. I shouldn’t be surprised. I can’t afford that right now (I’m a pensioner since Saturday!) so am investigating funding options.