Back and Batec Again!

I searched high and low for a new wheelchair and something a little different. For years I used a manual wheelchair which we later had adapted into an electric wheelchair, but I had never really been properly measured, asked what I wanted from a chair and how I was going to use it.

I was born with spina bifida and following a car accident in 2001 and surgery, which was complicated by me being born with SB, I ended up as a wheelchair user full-time. I was determined to find a chair that did not look institutional, and also wanted the ability to have both manual and electric options.

After a lot of research online, through magazines and speaking to others I found Cyclone. It was as if someone had switched on the light switch and for the first time I could see what it was that I wanted. Being a presenter for BBC Gardeners’ World and the UK’s first garden designer in a wheelchair, I had seen film clips of me in my old wheelchair and noticed the chair before me.

Mark Lane - Offcarr

For the first time in a long while I felt fully independent

Cyclone gave me many options and through Access to Work I was able to order an Offcarr Wheelchair in Titanium. It is lightweight, manoeuvrable and in my opinion ‘sexy. More importantly, you see me rather than the chair. Now, I am not trying to hide the fact that I am disabled, but I had finally found a chair that made me feel good again. Being manual I was a little apprehensive, as my upper body strength was not great since the accident; however, I then saw the incredible Batec. After having a bracket welded to my chair, by Cyclone, and checking everything over I visited to take the chair and the Batec for a test run.

Mark Lane 4

The Batec has changed the way that I work

Wow! Initially, it took a little time to get used to attaching the Batec to my chair, but once I had we were off. My assistant at the time could not keep up with us. We zoomed off down the road, across grass, up kerbs and inclines. For the first time in a long while I felt fully independent. I don’t think I stopped smiling until 2 days later. The incredible thing about the Batec is that it is robust, speedy, great fun and of course manageable, in the sense that when I need just the manual chair I can detach it with the lift of a central lever.

The Batec has changed the way that I now work. Previously, I would turn down potential clients if they needed a large garden (acres) with undulations and inclines, but now I am confident to proceed with such clients. The Batec and my wheelchair (I also bought off-road wheels for my Offcarr, for the additional ‘mad-man’ in me) make grass, gravel, stones and slopes an absolute doddle. This also meant that I was able to undertake TV work in more challenging conditions. I have been seen on TV a lot in both my wheelchair and wheelchair with Batec attached and no longer do I feel self-conscious, unable to do things. I can now work just like anyone else. And so many people stop me to chat about the Batec. It also comes in very handy when carrying out site surveys for clients, racing around their garden taking measurements, and when time to go indoors to chat to the client I detach the Batec and in I go.

Mark Lane

Gives me independence in London

Personally, it has helped both me and my partner. The chair is much lighter. Both me and my partner can lift the chair, wheels attached, out the back of my car (I have another chair in case you are wondering how I get round to the back), and because the weights, the battery and the Batec unit itself are all separate pieces, again we can put it together with ease, without harming ourselves. I do have to remember to keep the Batec in ‘pedestrian’ mode because when I am with my partner going around shops, I do tend to whizz off. The separate bag, that attaches to the front, is also really handy for shopping and measuring equipment. (The bag could probably do with a re-design to make it look better, but it is large enough for most days out.)

We now go to places which would have been impossible in the past – we have gone around the whole of Paris on one battery charge (my partner, who walks, was absolutely shattered, but I was looking forward to the evening when we could go outside again). My old wheelchair was quite high, and invariably I would not get under tables in restaurants, but now in my Offcarr, with the Batec detached (parked in the cloakroom with the normal attire of coats, scarves and hats, sits a very intriguing looking ‘unicycle’) I can get under tables, so we can now go out more and enjoy all of the wonderful restaurants.

I travel to London quite a bit for charity work and for Flower Shows, and the Batec has helped tremendously. I can go up train ramps with ease, dismount from the Batec attachment, a slide both it and me in my chair into the disabled seating areas. I can now do this independently, whereas before I always had to rely on my assistant or a friend, or my partner to come with me. I then re-attach at the station, whizz around London, and come back home again!

Read more about Mark’s award-winning garden designs

All images © Mark Lane

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