For Georgia Head, receiving a WHILL Model C from TGA came at just the right time: in just a few months, she would move from her home in Bordon, Hampshire to Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent to start her studies in Special Educational Needs.
Before using the multi award-winning chair, she used a manual wheelchair. Using it made her more reliant on others and tired quicker.
“With my manual I would have to use my arms, so I would get tired quickly,” she says. “With the WHILL, I don’t have that problem. Sometimes with a manual chair you’d have to plot your next move. I still have the manual just in case, but it was tough as I had to be more reliant on people.
“Now, if I have had a long day of lectures, I can then come back straight away without the worry of being tired.”
The remarkable benefits of owning a WHILL Model C began earlier in the year before she started university, though. The 19-year-old was able to experience a memorable holiday to America thanks to its unique transportability – flying to Houston in Texas to visit her brother.
“The places we visited were so varied meaning the trip would have been almost impossible if I had used my manual wheelchair,” Georgia explains. “Having the WHILL meant that we could all fully relax on holiday without worrying about how I would get around on the rocky terrain and difficult pathways. We could do everything we had planned together. My transatlantic flying experience with the chair was incredibly positive, airline staff expressed great interest in the WHILL as they had never seen anything like it before. They treated the chair with great care and it was given back to me in perfect condition.”
“Having the WHILL helps my concentration at university”
Now, Georgia is a member of various societies at university, including the Harry Potter Society and a university choir group.
“I do a lot,” she confesses. “I even joined the university boxing society! I was looking for something to keep me fit; I saw that and thought, yep, I could do that and I really enjoy it. I box twice a week and I guess it’s easier boxing in a WHILL than a manual!
“I also do a lot of charity work,” she adds. “I want to help children with educational needs. I have always been a fan of working with people and I’m thinking of becoming a play specialist and speech therapist. I grew up spending time in those centres and it’s something I’ve had experience in and knowledge of. With the help of my WHILL, I will be clearly able to show people that regardless of your abilities, with the right equipment you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Model C features
Incorporating advanced technology, aesthetics and performance, the Model C has enjoyed an incredibly successful year winning six international design awards and featuring in TIME magazine’s top 50 inventions for 2018. Its omni-wheels are made up of 24 individual rollers, each providing forward and lateral rotation so the smallest turning circle is possible and its ‘computer mouse style’ joystick is specifically designed to be intuitive – so power and braking is ultra-responsive even in challenging situations.
Other features of the Model C, though, have particularly helped Georgia in everyday situations.
“I like the fact that I can control it from my phone through the app,” she says. “In certain halls, I must transfer out my chair and move it away from other people. It means that I can charge it easily at night and I don’t have to awkwardly move out of my chair and get into bed - I can just control it with the app and it will turn around. This is also really handy when I want to sit on an ordinary chair if I go out to eat at restaurants.
“I also like the fact it’s got the basket – it just means I can store things easily for when I go shopping with friends instead of using the handles of a manual, and you can make it personal to you. With most chairs you choose the colour you like when you first get it but that might change over time.”
With the armrests having the ability to retract back, easy transfers are now also possible for Georgia.
“The function of pulling them back is effortless so when I am tired, or in a rush, I do not struggle,” she explains. “For example, I am able to transfer out of my WHILL quickly onto lecture hall seats where the desks are attached to the chairs. I can then park my WHILL using the Bluetooth remote control app, meaning I am fully involved with my peers.”
But as well as having more energy and increased concentration at university, perhaps the greatest asset the Model C has brought into Georgia’s life is an extra injection of confidence.
“It’s nice to feel a little bit more confident,” she says. “Crossing the road [for example], I know I’m going to get to the other side quickly and safely. It’s also good to know the WHILL will go over most surfaces and obstacles are made easier. There are cobbly streets in Canterbury, but it does make life a lot easier.
- ‘My lecturer said, “Georgia, you’re freaking me out! Your chair is so cool!”
“I get interest glances from people. I know they’re looking at it because they’ve never seen anything like it before! I definitely get comments from friends and especially those I do charity work with saying the WHILL looks cool. I had a lecture and I moved the chair to me using the app. My lecturer said, ‘Georgia you’re freaking me out! Your chair is so cool!’.
“This is going to sound cheesy but it’s also just the independence. I can walk into town with my friends. You can have a normal conversation without having to hurt your neck to turn around to talk to them. Just small things: It’s being able to go places and not be tired when I get there. Last weekend me and my friends went into town and watched the Christmas lights being turned on. Usually I feel quite nervous in my chair in public spaces but I didn’t feel as worried. Next, I’m going to see in Lion King in the West End in January – which has been made a lot easier. It just means I’m more confident generally.”