Wheelchair revolution started with blank sheet

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A REVOLUTION is under way in a nondescript business centre on the outskirts of Hemel Hempstead.

For in one of the units of the Chancerygate Business Centre in Whiteleaf Road, designer Mike Spindle has been beavering away at perfecting the wheelchair.

22/11/2011 Mike Spindle in Hemel Hempstead with his Trekinetic GTE ultra light weight power chair

22/11/2011 Mike Spindle in Hemel Hempstead with his Trekinetic GTE ultra light weight power chair

Mike is MD of Trekinetic, which used to produce bits and pieces for Formula One racing cars, specialising in seating.

“It all sounds glamorous,” said Mike. “But they would ring up on a Friday and expect you to have something ready by Sunday. People would have to give up their family lives.

“It was okay when they needed you but when you needed them, they didn’t want to know. We needed our own product.”

One of the key moments came when Mike saw a young boy in a wheelchair at Luton airport.

“He was young and fashionable but sitting in this old chair,” said Mike.

The germ of an idea was taking root. But it didn’t start to grow until a few years later, after Mike had bought the company and began thinking seriously about new products.

“I didn’t have any particular emotional attachment to disability issues, I didn’t look at wheelchairs and think: ‘This is how we can improve that’. I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and set out to solve a problem, as if the wheelchair never existed.”

Trekinetic’s chairs have a stabilising wheel at the back, instead of the front. But problems meant six years of blood, sweat and nearly tears, working out a way of stabilising a near project-destroying wobble.

The solution is now a patented invention that allows different designs to be tried out. A motorised Trekinetic model is now rolling off the production line. And the company exports to 34 countries around the world, with customers flying in from as far away as Chile to pick up their chairs.

> See Natalee Hazelwood’s video profile of Trekinetic by visiting www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/business.