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"I've got my freedom back" - work and family life made easier thanks to 'life-changing' WHILL

4th September, 2020

James Blair has been able to keep up with his fast-moving work and home life thanks to a ‘completely different’ WHILL Model C.

James works as a policy manager for the Scottish government and has extensive knowledge of disability allowances, rights and funding. His career has involved advising departments to the First Minister along with organisations such as Independent Living Fund Scotland. Alongside his work life, however, James has an active family and busy lifestyle with his partner and two young boys.  

In 2010, James experienced a car accident which resulted in the need for full-time wheelchair use. Since then James has sought the ideal wheelchair and mobility scooter for independence and to match his exact needs but to no avail. With his mobility becoming more challenging year-on-year, the need to find that illusive solution became vital for work and supporting his family.

“If you become disabled, you have to adjust to living in a world that is pretty much designed for non-disabled people,” he says. “Everything takes longer with more planning and it can be hard to keep up with the pace of life, especially when you’ve got a busy career and a young family. You are always asking yourself can I go out and do that? Can I get there? Will I enjoy that with them?”

James’s world, ‘literally completely changed’ though when he discovered the award-winning WHILL Model C, becoming aware of its unique design features and benefits through a colleague at the University of Glasgow who used a WHILL for teaching.

“WHILL is completely different in looks and the way it works” he says. “People may say I went for it just because of its contemporary styling but they’d be wrong, it’s the practical functionality which is the most attractive in my eyes. As we live in a small East Lothian village I commute into Edinburgh. We’re fortunate in Scotland to have such a good accessible bus service which I use regularly. I’ve only had my WHILL for a few weeks however I have already been into the city on the bus and train. Access was so easy even when space was tight. Other products say they are manoeuvrable, they are not. The fact that you can spin around on the spot and face the same way as everyone else, without awkward reversing is priceless.”

“I also take my WHILL in my adapted car when my partner can put it in the boot or I’m not having such a good day health wise – I have flexibility,” he continues. “Once on the pavement I have more confidence and don’t feel the bumps as much thanks to a certain amount of integrated suspension. My previous products were terrible and did result in me falling off a few times. Hilly areas in Glasgow and Edinburgh present no challenge for me now.”

Similar to many professionals, James is currently working from home however he will be returning to the office shortly. “Again, the WHILL will be a massive help especially as the building I work in has such small lifts. I find it odd how the planners got away with making them so small which is a big problem if you’re in a wheelchair or on a scooter. Previously on a scooter people would be dodging out of my way whilst I’m apologising or you’re having to ask people to move which can be embarrassing. The WHILL lets me drive in and turn without hassle, you feel like you blend in more with what everyone else is doing.”

“Being able to move freely in my main office or during site visits makes work so much easier. I can accompany colleagues and also travel with them on the bus or train without the faff of separate taxis. I can sit comfortably at office desks – again I’ve never been able to do this as other products have arm rests that get in the way or your legs are positioned too high. The designers have really thought things through.”

As James and his family continue to move forward, he is more confident and positive about the future. “At the end of the day, my smile says it all when using the WHILL, I’ve got my freedom back,” he says. “As a family we can spend more time together at outdoor activity centres or soft play areas. The local park is more accessible so I can accompany the boys by the climbing frames.” 

“Like many people we have gone for a ‘staycation’ this year so have made the most of the excellent facilities and public transport near our home. In terms of next year’s holiday, we are looking to rebook our trip to the Netherlands where we regularly go as it is flat and facilities tend to be more accessible. I’m looking forward to the ferry journey being so much easier with the WHILL as I now just fit in like everyone else.”