It was at the summit of a hill in Exeter where Hannah Barham-Brown was able to comprehend just the extent to which the WHILL Model C had improved her mobility.
While in the city for her TEDx talk, Hannah was faced with the daunting slope leading up to her accommodation. “Previously I would have had to call a taxi to reach my destination, especially as I had lots of luggage, however I realised I had the capabilities to negotiate it,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed at the top I burst into tears and was comforted by a total stranger.”
The achievement was perhaps symbolic of the wider significance the WHILL has had on her professional life. Indeed, Hannah is a very busy person. She’s a GP registrar, speaker, disability advocate, media spokesperson, BMA council member and European Parliament and Council Candidate for the Women’s Equality Party. Oh, and she spoke to 700,000 people at the People’s Vote march for good measure.
It’s no wonder then, Hannah made the Shaw Trust’s ‘Power 100 List’, making her one of the UK’s 100 most influential disabled people in 2018.
Hannah Barham-Brown on a TGA WHILL Model C at Naidex 2019.
Without the WHILL though, the continuation of these responsibilities and campaigns together was in jeopardy. "I can honestly say that without WHILL Model C the pace of my life may not have been sustainable,” she said. “I am a very determined person however when it comes to walking, the further I go the more pain I have to endure.”
Now, many daily activities have become easier, including traveling into for her BMA and media commitments. “I travel to London regularly and most of the time staff are available with ramps so no hassle,” she continues. “Once aboard, I tend to stay in my WHILL without needing to transfer out as it is so comfortable.
“When I need to stand up out of my chair with my walking stick, the fact the footplate folds out of the way give me more stability as my feet are on the ground. The ease at which I can drive around also surprises me. I first experienced this at Naidex. The omni wheels mean I can turn on a sixpence and traction over grass is consistent and controlled."
Hannah has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which results in hyper mobile joints. She was always very flexible as a child and excelled in ballet for 15 years. However, after completing a half marathon, to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation following the loss of her two brothers, she was diagnosed with the condition. As her shoulders have become more prone to dislocation, manual propulsion in a wheelchair is more challenging – hence the search for a powered alternative.
Then, at Naidex 2019, she first discovered the WHILL and was invited to experience the TGA test track via Dominic Lund-Conlon, the founder of Review my Wheelchair.
“It has massively changed the way I move around,” she concludes. “Despite my 100% commitment to all the causes I am involved in, I was having serious doubts about my career and the ability to see patients when using a manual wheelchair. Not anymore, WHILL Model C is a game changer."
You can follow Hannah on Twitter here.
WHILL Model C insight:
The WHILL Model C from TGA is an award-winning, transportable powerchair designed by Japanese ex-automotive and technology experts. Its unique, contemporary design and 'omni-wheel' manoeuvrability are providing independent mobility to style-conscious individuals across the UK.
Range: Up to 10 miles
Max speed: 4mph
Max user weight: 18 stone
Total weight of WHILL: 52kgs