At CES 2014 our attention was taken by by an innovative wheelchair. Novel ideals for wheelchairs in the past seem to have been restricted to different seats or adding off road capabilities but start up WHILL had taken an idea from fork lifts and applied it to wheelchairs. The wheels had a series of powered rollers that gave it huge maneuverability. It could go sideways, spin on the spot or go at angles.
Fast forward a year and a bit and WHILL has taken a major step forward. The new version – the Model M has received FDA approval. The Model M has the same maneuverable drive system and has changed the support built into the seat and arms slightly. Comparing the pictures the changes look like improvements and certainly make it more customisable.
In the US getting the FDA approval means that the Model M can be prescribed by doctors – a huge difference and on that means it might have the chance to go mass market. WHILL’s next step is to get HCPC – Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System clearance which will make it potentially available on insurance.
Here in the UK there’s no immediate prospect of getting the Model M on the NHS and WHILL can only ship to the UK or Japan. WHILL are asking for everyone who might be interested to contact them and request a test drive. Even if they can’t get to you now it will inform where they expand next. In the US The Model M is available for $13,995 or just a shade under £10,000 which it can’t be denied is expensive. It might be worth it for some though – this is a unique product.