Wearable technology for wheelchair users

Wearable Technology fits the masses with ease - but does it cater for wheelchair users too?

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The wearable technology market is flush with devices, from heart rate monitors to smart watches, with contactless products a growing arena.  We’ve taken a look at some products and how they can benefit a wheelchair user.

Barclays bPay

A contactless payment device, this is available as a keyfob or wristband.  Using either the app (Android, iPhone) or desktop website, you can access the device account and set up a pre-pay fund.  This is particularly useful if you don’t like to share your PIN and keep your wallet tucked away safe.  You don’t need to be a Barclays customer either.

The app is very easy to use (although it won’t let you make screenshots, so we can’t show you how simple it is) and you can have one wallet per device.  It’s so simple to use when you pay that it could be considered “childs play” – so we handed one to a child one day to prove the point. The result?  £30 spent in Smiggle.

It keeps things simple and we’d recommend that if you’re going to get one, get the wristband rather than keyfob.  The maximum payment amount is £30.

Price: £17.99, valid for 2 years
From: www.bpay.co.uk
Verdict: Useful device but essentially paying £17 to be able to use a pre-pay card.

Apple Watch

Wearable Technology Apple Watch S3 - at launch

Watch S3 – at launch (Copyright Apple)

At the opposite end of the scale, you could buy the Apple Watch, considered by some to be the ultimate in wearable technology.  With a number of apps, including ApplePay and fitness, this works for wheelchair users to monitor the distance they wheel in a day.  A number of people have said this is reasonably reliable.

So it has a good reputation amongst the community so far – we’ve not tried the Apple Watch yet and with good reason – no iPhone, so it’s never been on the shopping list.  (Note to Apple: you are welcome to send a device our way and we’ll let our readers know!)

Price: £279.99 – £700+
From: Amazon, Argos, John Lewis… etc – or www.apple.com direct
Verdict: You’ve got to really love your Apple tech to buy one – but it is guaranteed to do more than just tell the time.

FitBit Charge 2

Fitbit Charge 2

Fitbit Charge 2

FitBit focus mainly on fitness, which means this device will tell the time, your heart rate and transfer your calorie burn to your mobile phone app of choice.  We’ve used on briefly and found it was spot on for steps but have not worked out how to convert it to just using distance.  We only had it for an hour though.

As far as wearable technology devices go, FitBit are robust and reasonably reliable, with straps available to change the look with your clothing or wheelchair of the day.  It also keeps things simple, something we approve of.

Price: £119.99
From: John Lewis
Verdict: If you want to know your Calorie Burn, this is a robust and reliable device.

Microsoft Band 2

Microsoft Band 2

Microsoft Band 2

Dominic (our lead editor) has one of these.  You can’t purchase them new anymore and he thinks he has worked out why, which we’ll come to in a moment.  The basics are that this will link with any device, not just a Windows Phone.  The band can monitor your heart rate, work outs and runs (including by distance and speed, which is helpful).  It can also help manage your calls and text messages, leading to it being a mix between a smart watch and a fitness band.

The additional benefit is that it will also manage your music on a Windows Device, acting as a remote control for you to skip or pause music as you work out – meaning you don’t have to fish your phone out of your pocket.

The downside?  The rubber strap splits far too easily, a common fault and something that Microsoft will charge you to replace.

Price: £50-100 on ebay
From: ebay, second hand
Verdict: Not tough enough for real life.

What other Wearable Technology is there?

What do you use?  Tell us what it is and your thoughts in the comments below!  Just sign in with Facebook or Twitter and let us know about your device.

A wheelchair user for 20 years, Dominic looks at how a wheelchair works for its user base, not the brochure.

Dominic is our lead editor.

5 Comments

  1. I love my Apple Watch (bought second hand off eBay, not a chance I could afford a new one!).

    It reminds me to move around/change positions (it says “stand”, but you just need to move around a bit). Plus it motivates me to be more active when I can – the little achievements are quite cool!

    I mainly use it to help me with planning and time management. Being autistic, I like having a clear schedule. I have my calendar etc on my iPad and iPhone (as well as numerous whiteboards in my flat!), so the Apple Watch is able to link to my calendar and tell me what’s coming up next. It also shows me alarms if I’m not looking at (or near to) my iPhone.

    I also like that it tells me if I have any important emails/texts – and if I’m in a rush I can send a standard reply (you can edit these on your iPhone) just by a couple of taps. I always have it on silent, because I prefer it just tapping my wrist instead of beeping.

    Of course it’s not for everyone and I have to admit I’m a pretty big Apple fan girl, haha. (She says sitting here with an iPhone, iPad and MacBook!) 😄

    • If you tell it in the settings you are a wheelchair user it will tell you to Roll, rather than stand. I love that.

  2. bPay looks like just what I need. Don’t like getting purse out so this would be great. Thanks.

  3. I use my Garmin Forerunner 25 for activity tracking and training/racing pushes, from as little as a mile to marathon distance, it even gives smart notifications. I couldn’t live without it now. 😁

  4. I have an iWatch which I love and use as a fitness app. I also wear the push tracker which is the controller for the Max Mobility Smart Drive. That track the actual pushes and also the amount I coast using the drive. The two never agree.

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