Seeing the World in the iBOT® PMD

For many people with a disability, traveling can seem out of reach. Navigating air travel with a wheelchair can be challenging, mobility devices can be damaged on the road, and the world is not as accessible as it should be, with stairs and curbs at nearly every corner. But for iBOT® users, many of these obstacles fade away. Alan Brown hands up iBOT traveling

Alan Brown, Director of New Partner Engagement at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and Chip McCarthy, Senior Vice President/Co-Managing Director of IMG, have both traveled across the country and even across the world with their iBOT®s.

At Chimney Rock State Park in the mountains of North Carolina, Alan drove up and down hills and to places other manual or power wheelchairs would not be able to go. He has also traveled up the east coast and to upstate New York where he was able to explore, visit friends, and engage in social and outdoor activities independently with the iBOT®. “I can do things differently because of the mobility [the iBOT®] gives me,” Alan said.

The iBOT® opens options for Alan to do what he wants to do – whether that’s tackling a curb or steps to get inside a friend’s home or going into Balance Mode to speak with someone eye to eye. “The iBOT doesn’t define me, but it allows me to be who I am,” Alan said.

Chip and his wife Brigitte recently returned from a three-week trip to Ireland and France, where they visited their grandchildren. A highlight of their trip was being able to climb stairs to get into their daughter’s home to spend time with their family. With the iBOT®, Brigitte says, “We aren’t afraid of whether or not we can get in somewhere.” Their daughter’s house in the south of Ireland has tight hallways and small entryways, “But we were able to turn on a dime and maneuver through very narrow doorways,” Chip said.

When the McCarthys traveled to Ireland’s highest waterfall to have a picnic with their grandchildren, the path to get there was steep. In Four-Wheel Mode, the iBOT®’s Terrain Following feature adjusted the seat to match the steep terrain and keep the seat level. “That was wonderful – I thought, ‘wow this is a godsend’ – self adjustment in 4-Wheel Mode – it makes a huge difference,” Chip said.

Throughout the trip, Brigitte took videos of Chip and his iBOT going through different types of terrain: beaches, grass, gardens, dirt paths, and stairs. For their 31st anniversary, they also went to the small village in France where they got married. The cobblestone streets were no problem for the iBOT®!

During the McCarthys’ travel adventures, they often utilize airline travel as a means of getting to where they want to go.  Airline travel can be daunting for people who use wheelchairs – handlers can damage devices while in transport.

Chip noted that he feels more confident in the iBOT® because the device can be powered down completely with the controls taken off. This means the baggage handlers and anyone touching the chair can’t do anything but push it and pick it up. The device becomes essentially a wheeling cart, or “a big, rugged piece of luggage,” Chip said.

One of the reasons Chip wanted an iBOT® was because it was far less clunky than other devices, making it easier to travel with. “We wanted something simpler, but still sophisticated,” Brigitte said. “We wanted eye level capabilities, but the same assurance that we could go over different types of terrain. And that is what we got with the iBOT®.”

Chip and Brigitte’s traveling advice to other iBOT® users: make sure you are fully comfortable switching from mode to mode. It’s important to feel confident in what modes to use in tight spaces. Never get off the plane without your device – you never know how long you will have to sit in the loaner airline chair they give you, and that can be uncomfortable. Always take your seat cushion with you to sit on in the plane. And make sure you bring an adapter for your charger if you are travelling internationally.

For Alan, the iBOT® makes it easier for him to get on and off airplanes. “It’s more convenient to travel with than previous power wheelchairs that I have had,” Alan said. “Also, customer service guys at Mobius [Mobility] are amazing – reach out to them when you need help.” Alan offered valuable advice to fellow iBOT® users looking to travel – always carry an extra tire, tube, and charger, if you can. And figure out a way to wrap your chair up – whether that’s with a rain poncho and two bungee cords, or an official iBOT® travel cover. Lastly, take pictures of your chair before giving it to the airline, and always report damages immediately.

Although it’s always possible that things can go wrong while traveling with a power wheelchair, with the iBOT®, many things can go right. Alan used the first generation iBOT 4000 for 18 years , traveling all over the world. “You can’t pass those memories up,” he said.

Because of his iBOT®, Alan gets to go places that many of his friends with disabilities don’t. He only wishes more people had the device to experience the world with him. “I go places and have opportunities because [the iBOT®] allows me to have opportunities,” Alan said. “It leads to a better quality of life, and more people deserve iBOT®s.”