Written by: Christina Mills, Deputy Director, California Foundation of Independent Living Centers
The chances that most manual wheelchair users will eventually graduate to a power wheelchair are high. As much as I’d like to believe that my body, and specifically my shoulders, should work like they have forever (in a seated position, moving back and forth, pushing my wheelchair for 30+ years), I’ve come to realize that my transition time is coming. The good news is that I have found a happy middle ground, and can likely put off the power chair for a few more years.
Last year, my husband blew my mind with an unexpected birthday surprise. He secretly crowd sourced our friends and family to purchase my birthday gift. If that wasn’t surprising enough, he used the funds to buy me a piece of assistive technology, a second generation Firefly!
A Firefly is a battery powered single-wheel attachment that connects to the front of my wheelchair by two brackets. It kind of makes my chair look like a bike, but with a seat on it. It’s pricey, but compared to the cost of a power wheelchair or scooter, the Firefly is affordable. It is also very easy to purchase. My husband ordered it off of Amazon, and we were able to self-install the brackets on the body of my wheelchair to immediately use it. When attached, the Firefly pulls my front caster wheels off of the ground about three inches. The Firefly has two locking mechanisms that resemble typical wheelchair breaks. These mechanisms clamp on to the brackets installed on my chair to keep the Firefly in place.
It took a little time to adjust to having something on the front of me and my chair, but now I dread days that I forget my Firefly at home or at work. I love how much freedom and speed it gives me. It allows me to roll on loose gravel and other unpacked surfaces with no problem. I can also travel up inclines without assistance and carry my son safely between my legs on my footplate. Best of all, my shoulders love it!