13 June 2017
Meet the Blesma man behind a revolutionary new wheelchair.
Necessity is the mother of invention, or so the saying goes, and Phil Eaglesham is living proof that this could very well be the case.
Confined to a mobility device after he contracted the rare disease Q Fever whilst serving in Afghanistan in 2010, the 40 Commando Royal Marines corporal found himself frustrated with how limited his mobility actually was.
“Mobility devices can’t get through doors in a lot of shops, and you have to find drop kerbs to get on and off the pavements – and then somebody has often parked their car over them,” says Phil.
“In the past, people have even accused me of having stolen my wheelchair, and that made me not want to use it! There’s also the big issue of not actually being at eye level with able-bodied people, so they don’t know whether to stand up or sit down when they talk to me. I just thought there had to be a better way!”
“THIS DEVICE ALLOWS A DISABLED PERSON TO LIVE IN AN ABLE-BODIED ENVIRONMENT”
An idea that's on the rise.
Seven years after contracting Q Fever, a rare bacterial infection that lives in the soil and is spread by animals, Phil’s muscles have weakened to such an extent that he is no longer able to pick up many objects.
Two years ago, he became so frustrated with the mobility device he was using that he began to research the technology. He found that relatively few innovations and advances had been made in more than three decades, and so he decided to do something about it. Thankfully, immersing himself in designing his own mobility device has given Phil a whole new drive and purpose.
"I searched for something better than a wheelchair and eventually bought a Segway. I put a carbon fibre seat on it, and that was an improvement because I was at eye level,” Phil says of his early efforts. “But it still didn’t work for everything – I was constantly having to make adaptations.”
It was a chance encounter with Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, and her dad Brian, that really kick-started Phil’s idea.
“I met them at a charity function and explained my concept to them. They were great, and helped me get in touch with Sheffield University. Both the design and business aspects have snowballed from there. They felt like people who would do this for the right reasons, to make a real difference for others. And they have helped so much with the business side of my idea.”
"If people see you at eye level they treat you like a ‘normal’ person"
“With Victor you can go through difficult doorways, open doors, and use normal kitchens rather than having to adapt your own. It means you can get in and out of a normal car or van without having to spend thousands of pounds having it altered."
“I’m sick of shelling out money for adaptations, or asking charities for help with things like ramps. Victor can end all that. It can also help businesses because they can buy this chair rather than re-work entire buildings. And disabled people can move into old property rather than being limited to adapted homes. It can empower a lot of people and save a lot of money!”
Two prototypes should be ready in time for the Invictus Games in Toronto this September. “I can’t wait to test it,” says Phil. “My life is going to change forever! Victor will let me do things like go to the toilet – I’ve not been able to do that by myself for years! Little things like this make such a huge difference to people. “I have three sons and I’ve missed out on a lot of things with them, too – I’ve missed out on being a dad.
Victor will improve that situation greatly as well.” Phil will leave the military in July, and credits his company with helping him move forward mentally.
“I’m fortunate because the injured community has so much support now – it has allowed me to take my idea forward,” he says.
“Blesma has assisted me, and Barry Le Grys has had some great input. Doing this has helped me mentally with my recovery. For me, this company is about giving something back to people. When I try to make sense of what happened to me, I think this could perhaps be the reason why I contracted the disease.”
For more on Victor, Phil’s groundbreaking prototype mobility device, visit www.victormobility.com