Scattered throughout our country there are large numbers of survivors of military operations whose mobility is severely restricted due to the loss of one or more limbs. When these veterans realize the extent of their loss, and how much their life is going to be curtailed, they can suffer devastating psychological consequences. Now, Track Chairs provide new hope for our disabled vets.
The Action Track Chair is a powered high-traction wheelchair for off-road use. Instead of wheels, it is fitted with treaded caterpillar tracks, similar to tank tracks, to enable the chair to negotiate difficult terrain. It fact it has been described as half wheelchair, half ATV (all-terrain vehicle), and some have nicknamed it the tank chair.
The chair has an abundance of features that make it ideal for use by people with very limited independent mobility. It is powered with two 12-volt batteries, and these can be recharged, so there is no risk of being stranded. There is a joystick for steering, and the zero-turn radius steering system means increased control, and much greater ease of maneuvering over obstacles and in tight spaces.
The chair also boasts a wealth of high-tech features, which users say makes it a dream to use. For instance, to make it easy to use on steep slopes, there is an electric actuator, enabling the user to tilt the seat forward, for ascending more safely, and tilt it back, for easier descent. There is a whole array of small switches, which provide the user with virtually 100% mobility.
To make the chair suitable for a wide range of activities, there is scope for all sorts of optional add-ons. There are holders and rests for hauling packs, and for holding cameras, binoculars and toolboxes. For hunters, the chair can be customized with rifle holders, gun racks and gun scabbards, while for keen anglers there are holders for rods and reels. The chair even has a feature that enables the user to stand up in the chair, which is a great bonus for sport enthusiasts.
Those who have already used the chair have been amazed at the wide range of activities they can perform. The chair’s low center of gravity and wide wheelbase keep it balanced and steady, even in the most challenging terrain. It has five speeds — none of them fast, but making it possible to adjust the speed from extremely slow, for climbing over rocks and logs, to a moderate speed for flat terrain. All this means the chair can be driven through snow, over rocks, and even through several inches of water. It excels in mud, on the beach or in the forest — in fact, virtually everywhere the user wants to go.
The Action Track Chair was originally devised by a Minnesota-based sports equipment manufacturer, after his own son lost his mobility in a car crash at age 16. The drive to provide Track Chairs for disabled veterans was spearheaded by a small private nonprofit organization called the Independence Fund, which was set up in 2007 to support wounded vets through their rehabilitation process. They have teamed up with another organization, Truckin 4 Troops, to raise funds to purchase chairs for all vets who would benefit from them.
When the chairs are purchased, they are stored at a farm belonging to Truckin 4 Troops founder Scott Mallary, waiting for the vets to be rehabilitated sufficiently to use the chairs. The farm is close to the Walter Reed Medical Center, where many of the vets are being treated. Mallary also provides space on his farm, where the vets can test drive the chairs and get used to operating them, so that by the time they are discharged, they are good to go.
Advances in battlefield medicine mean that many soldiers with devastating injuries, who would previously have died, are now surviving. Although they are thankful to be alive, they find it desperately hard to come to terms with the loss of their freedom and independence. The Track Chairs cannot remove disabilities or replace legs, but they can greatly reduce the impact of the injuries, by restoring some independence and choice, and allowing access to the great outdoors.
Persons who would like to make a donation to this worthwhile cause may do so by visiting: http://www.independencefund.org/#!track-chairs/c1qsz.