Website review: The Hoveround electric wheelchair

About five years ago, I had a procedure to remove a kidney stone. A cystoscopy sounds unpleasant, as most invasions of the urethra are, but it was actually pretty painless under the spell of highly effective anesthetics. When I awoke afterwards, the hardest part was probably the pressure the nurses put on me to pee before they would let me go. I have “bashful kidney” under the best of circumstances, so you can imagine how I felt with several highly paid health professionals standing by.

My recovery at home proceeded nicely, and within a couple of days I was ready for an outing. I was moving a little slowly when we entered the local Costco and I spotted the motorized shopping cart. I’ve always been interested in the concept of assisted mobility and yet hadn’t found the opportunity to ride a motorcycle or jet ski, so it looked like I’d finally have a chance for something close. I shuffled my handicapped urethra over to the machine and fired it up.

What a revelation life is when seen from about two feet lower than usual! Your whole perspective on the world changes. Everyone else seems so tall when you’re buzzing along at waist level; you come to appreciate why children are so wide-eyed with excitement at the life that surrounds them. A certain playfulness came over me as I sped up and down the aisles running into people’s ankles and nearly toppling the pot stickers sample table.

I thought back on this childlike wonder when I was at the gym the other day and a commercial for the Hoveround came on TV. Men and women not much older than me were motoring all over the landscape with great delight. As I joined their admiring grandchildren in watching them sightsee the Hoover Dam and romp through the grass at the base of the Statue of Liberty, I found I had a subject for this week’s website review:

It’s a fairly simple site, which makes sense when you consider the generally limited computer skills of its intended audience. Most details are spelled out in a free information kit you can request to be mailed, though they also have “experts standing by” at a toll-free number if you’d rather talk to a live operator. (I frankly thought the choice of the phrase “standing by” was a little insensitive). The home page describes how electric wheelchairs and scooters are more than just a convenience, they are a bridge to fuller, more independent lives, and how Hoveround has spent the last 20 years committed to providing powerful, durable and safe vehicles.

The “About Us” section recounts how inventor Tom Kruse used down time during the filming of “Top Gun” to realize his vision to “build a chair that can go anywhere someone can walk.” He consulted with everyone from long-haul truck drivers to NASA scientists about how he could construct a small maneuverable wheelchair. (We can all be glad that the idea of using booster rockets was dropped in early prototypes.) When the final version was ready, he decided to bypass medical equipment dealers and sell directly to consumers, primarily through commercials.

Apparently it’s the round, compact nature of the Hoveround that sets it apart from bulkier wheelchairs. I had believed – mistakenly, as it turns out – that the name implied passengers rode on a cushion of air, much like those high-tech Hovercraft boats you see on certain ferry routes. I could’ve sworn I remember seeing segments of the TV ad where seniors were actually floating high above the Colorado River during their Grand Canyon tour, but I guess it was just wishful thinking. Riders unfortunately remain earth-bound.

There are a variety of models to choose from, depending on your mobility needs and your Medicare connections. The top of the line seems to be the MPV 5 which features a flip-up footplate, two large motors that give it enough power to work outdoors or indoors, and an optional power seat-lift controlled through the joystick. It offers a 300-pound weight capacity, a 15-mile range and, with a top speed of 5 m.p.h., it’s faster than walking (not to mention so much easier). Its two-and-a-half-inch ground clearance makes it a sweet low-rider, and yet it can still clear two-inch bumps or floor raises.

Other models include the Teknique FWD, a front-wheel-drive vehicle that presumably is better suited to wintry road conditions, the RWD, a rear-wheel-drive rover that offers a 20-mile battery range that appeals to wandering Alzheimer’s patients, and the GT, the fastest model which travels at a near hyper-sonic 7 m.p.h. All come with automatic braking, which seems like an especially worthwhile feature for that Grand Canyon outing.

The maneuverability of the Hoveround, with its extremely tight turning radius, will not accommodate the heftier handicapped. There is a Hummer equivalent in the personal mobility vehicle field – the Pride 1170 XL Plus, offered by arch-rival Jazzy – which is a wide-set behemoth that will carry a rider weighing 650 pounds that costs as much as a mid-sized sedan. But Hoveround chooses to remain in the compact sector of the market and, as such, remains the choice for most shoppers interested in economy.

That’s not to say, however, that you can’t spend a little extra to trick out your wheelchair or scooter. The website includes a wide selection of accessories: a beverage holder, a tray table (for those who want to recall the security of the infant high chair), a canopy, a crutch holder, a cane holder, a walker holder and an oxygen holder. You can also opt for a padded chest strap, which comes in a variety of fashion colors, to keep you from toppling forward into your own lap.

They also sell tie-downs and straps that will allow you to safely attach your electric wheelchair to the back of your car or van when you want to transport it cross-country. I would’ve thought you could just tie a rope and drag it from your back bumper but the small wheels can’t accommodate highway speeds and the thing would just bounce uncontrollably like a string of tin cans.

The only thing I see missing from that you might find on other similar websites is a shopping option for those whose budgets won’t accommodate a motorized chair. I’m not quite disabled enough yet to qualify for the top-line merchandise, but if I wanted to start getting into the feel of the Hoveround lifestyle, I’d at least like to able to order a logo t-shirt, a cap, or at least a coffee mug. These are unfortunately not available.

Still, reviewing this very informative website has allowed me to dream of a future in which my legs can atrophy in peace while the rest of me can use the extra energy to take in the world from a fresh though slightly shorter perspective.


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9 Responses to “Website review: The Hoveround electric wheelchair”

  1. this buddy of mine Says:

    Here ya go!

  2. me2watson Says:

    Take good care of yourself now, ya hear?

    I owed ya one, and graciously bow to your style of roaming.

    That’s a 3-pointer! Uncle Tree on tricycles

  3. PoreSoreexcit Says:

    Engaging article=D will visit again.

  4. orangegop Says:

    You realize Tom Cruise, the actor involved with “Top Gun” and the USF inventor Tom Kruse are different people.

  5. Maegan Haroldson Says:

    I think I tried this a while ago. It brings back good memories. Nothing good seems to happen the first time. How long did it take you? I look forward to your next story.

  6. Michiko Bedson Says:

    I’ve been following your blog for 2 days now and I should tell you I get tons benefits from your article. and now how I can get news update from your blog?

  7. leroy martin Says:

    these comments are looking at this “hoveround” through rose colored glasses; should you be so unfortunate to buy one; you should hope you never have to have it repaired; especially if you are on Medicare or had bought it on Medicare. They just don’t care if they ever repair it for you; first of all they have things fixed and set up so nobody will ever or can ever repair it for you; calling their repair just results all kinds of excuses; untruths; failure to return phone calls backs and people who just simply
    give a hoot

  8. Larisa Marzett Says:

    Wow! I can’t understand why I didn’t think of this this earlier, great job.

  9. Alicia Fitzgerald Says:

    i was really giving hoveround second thoughts after reading Leroy’s repair comments above.

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