Save the iBot
A few months ago, I started a Save the iBot supporters’ group on Facebook. The iBot is the greatest advance ever in wheelchair technology. It is a ‘personal mobility device’, with Segway gyroscopic technology, which can climb stairs (www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLrVDQiL1wk), tackle nearly all terrains (www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fY5NYCVvqs) and spectacularly, transformer-like, balance at eye level on two wheels (www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKcxOpjpBqs).
The iBot was developed at huge cost in the US by Johnson & Johnson. J&J has decided to stop making it, for commercial reasons and, after fulfilling a statutory number of years, will withdraw support entirely at the end of 2013.
The iBot’s cutting edge technology gave added impetus to many R&D departments at wheelchair manufacturers, enhancing the prospects of better products for all wheelchair users, and not just the few who could afford the iBot.Tragically, the iBot’s withdrawal means that the speed of developments are resuming at a snail’s pace.
iBot owners achieved an improved quality of life overnight, and I’m sure that where they had jobs, their job productivity improved. Wheelchair users commonly say that other people find it difficult to ‘see beyond the chair’. iBot users tend not to have this problem, because the chair encourages interaction with the person in it.
There is a body of opinion that thinks J&J’s behaviour here is extremely sad – especially given the fact that such a group of people has spent so much of their money (it is expensive) on such a vital piece of equipment. Moreover, it should be expected to last more than a few years.
I’ve put together a short film explaining some of the main reasons why I feel it’s so important that the iBot is saved (www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUcitcDv4FI).