TiLite Aero Z
Seriously, I can't stand the cuteness right now. Look at my Caleb when he was only 2 1/2 years old!
The Aero Z is a rigid chair, aluminum frame. We chose red. Glenn called it Ferrari red, Caleb called it Elmo red. This first chair had some extra bells and whistles that we were able to take off as Caleb got more stable (the head rest, side and hip supports). This chair served Caleb very well for 4 1/2 years. It was a great chair but we definitely learned a few thing over the course of those years. We learned things we liked...and many things we didn't. So, as Caleb grew out of the red chair we had some very specific things in mind as we began to research and plan for his new chair.
Which leads me to Caleb's new wheels.
Atomic Green! (this picture does not do the color justice-it is awesome!)
I thought I would share some of the things we did differently with this chair. I figure some of this information might help a parent out there trying to pick the right chair for their child. I wish I had more help in choosing Caleb's first chair. I would have loved a blog post like this that shows some of the different options. Granted both of Caleb's chairs have been TiLite's so I can't comment on Quickie or Ki or Colours. I can only say that after much research on all of those brands, we stuck with TiLite.
I'm going to compare Caleb's old chair with his new chair:
The first chair had 2 small wheelie (or anti-tip) bars in the back. They worked really well and I didn't have too much of an issue with them until Caleb got older. Caleb would try to tip back in his chair to go over a bump but the wheelie bars wouldn't allow him to go back far enough. The new chair just has a single caster wheel on the back and it is much higher off the ground (it is adjustable). This allows Caleb a lot more freedom in tipping back in his chair...and more freedom for doing wheelies.
We made big changes with the wheels this second time around. We went with colored spokes to match Caleb chair and we went with the "natural fit" hand rim. With the natural fit hand rim, there is no space in between the hand rim and the wheel. We liked the look of it (makes the chair look sportier) but we also heard that the natural fit hand rims are easier on the thumbs and wrists. More ergonomic I guess. His new wheels also have a little bit of a tilt to them (also called camber). We have always gone with the solid tires instead of the pneumatic which are similar to bicycle tires in that there is a tube in the center that can pop or need to be aired up. We didn't feel like messing with that but I have heard that the pneumatic tires offer a smoother ride because they give a little. I've noticed that older kids and adults seem to prefer the pneumatic over the solid. For now though we stuck with solid.
Foot plate/Caster wheels
Not too many differences here. The TiLite Twist has a different approach to positioning the foot plate. On Caleb's new chair, the foot plate is back a little further which is supposed to keep the center of gravity in balance. Of course the must have for all pediatric wheelchairs are the light up caster wheels. There was no question that we would do those again. Caleb gets compliments on those "cool light-up wheels" all the time.
We put carbon fiber side guards on Caleb's new chair. They help keep his pants from rubbing on the wheels and I think they give the chair a sportier look. The pull off easily too.
And for you local folks, I highly recommend Innovative Seating and Mobility as a vendor. It is a smaller, newer company and they are fantastic. I contacted Mick (the owner) for the first time on April 26 and we had Caleb's chair on July 31. From start to finish, we had Caleb's chair in about 3 months. Anyone of you that have been through this process know that it can take forever. Caleb's first chair took almost 7 months to receive and that's not even counting the couple of months it took to meet with the vendor and get the chair ordered. Mick and his company were amazing and so patient with me. I had very specific things I wanted for Caleb's chair and they made sure everything was perfect. When we got the chair in late July we quickly realized that the back rest we had originally ordered wasn't a good fit for Caleb. Mick worked quickly to get a new back rest ordered and delivered in about 10 days. That is record speed folks. A big thank you to Mick and his crew. We couldn't be happier.