Back in California, I had a terrible time convincing Dad to buy the first wheelchair. No way he wanted it or even wanted to think about it. He was falling like crazy though — sometimes managing to bruise both of us in the process — very unstable, and short on stamina. Just getting him into and out of a car was adventure enough — we were really in trouble when we finally got to the doctor’s office, and going much of anywhere else just didn’t work well.
In the nick of time I went to a disability expo and saw Invacare’s AT’M, a lightweight motorized chair that I could break down and put into a car trunk. Better yet, Dad could drive it himself. It wasn’t cheap, and, like every other piece of medical equipment I’ve ever seen (possibly excepting urinals), it seemed horrendously overpriced, but it turned out to be worth its weight in dollars. We used this model for several years when we went out and about, and my dad used it full-time (not recommended!) because he wouldn’t accept another model for daily use.
The AT’M’s chief virtue is that it is extremely easy to break down into three parts: the seat, the battery, and the wheeled platform. The seat is not much heavier than a very light lawn chair, the battery is about 28 pounds and the platform about 34 pounds. I was able to get even the platform — the weight of a large toddler — into the trunks of various cars without too much difficulty. I could have reduced the platform weight significantly by snapping off the rear wheels, but I never felt the need to.
Dad wore his out — his weight was close to the maximum limit, and that, in combination with constant use every day, proved too much for the direct-drive motors. Our dealer quoted the replacement cost for the motors at nearly $500 apiece (two required) — an unconscionable price.
Still, the AT’M might be a good choice for very light people and light use. It was wonderful have a chair we could get into a car trunk, and which allowed us to travel side-by-side so that we could talk easily.
A better choice for some people might be the Pride Go-Chair. But more on that later.