A first-year student of the Manchester School of Art with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Lauren started her studies using a manual wheelchair, only to realise it wouldn’t offer the support she needed to negotiate the day-to-day demands of the city.
“The pavements can be terrible in Manchester, uneven and difficult to negotiate,” she said. “I was regularly having to ask my friends to come and rescue me in town when I had run out of energy, it was terrible, I felt so bad.”
It was at that moment she sought help from occupational therapist Ailsa Reston and RKS. “[They] have been so supportive of me and Ailsa always understands my needs,” she said. “When using my manual wheelchair was starting to get tough, I revisited RKS to see if they could recommend a powered alternative. As soon as I saw the WHILL by TGA I fell in love with it – it's cool, modern and minimal. Ailsa fully assessed whether it would be suitable for me and following her clinical approval, I bought it. I now have the capabilities and peace of mind to travel all day long with an amazing battery range.”
With a WHILL Model C and an accessible university space which Manchester offers, Lauren is now able to direct her energy towards her studies. "I'm lucky that both my halls of residence and studios are only a few years old so access is really good,” she says. “The Art School at Manchester is very impressive with spacious studios [but] access is made even easier with my WHILL, as its omni wheels provide such a tight turning circle. I can access my room and en-suite, communal kitchen, corridors and lifts in my halls with no problem.
“My friends also think my powerchair is so cool and they love the remote-control app,” she continues. “This means I can transfer out of my WHILL in lecture theatres or when at the Students Union bar plus park my powerchair out of the way. When I move out of halls next year my student accommodation will not be as accessible, but I feel confident that my WHILL will still make life so much better."
The Model C isn’t just proving a success when it comes to university life, though - she has used the chair to attend local events and gigs. The WHILL can be quickly dismantled by friends and placed in a car boot, meaning Lauren is able to enjoy the best of Manchester's music scene at venues such as the Albert Hall, Apollo, Manchester Arena and Ritz.
"Without my WHILL I'd be lost,” she concludes. “I've never owned a powerchair before but I'm pretty sure my WHILL would take some beating. It has so many fantastic features such as the numerical battery display so you know exactly how much power you have left; I can drive all day long with no worries. My friends tend to walk into town so I go with them, I have caught the bus a few times and taken my powerchair on-board. When my study workload isn't too much, I love nothing more than going out to bars and venues. Manchester is a great place to be a student, made even better with a WHILL Model C."
WHILL Model C insight:
Range: Up to 10 miles
Max speed: 4mph
Max user weight: 18 stone
Total weight of WHILL: 52kgs