I went to test out the Hand Drive this week and it went really well. I took the Hand Drive to an assisted living home nearby called, the Village of Duxbury, in Duxbury, Massachusetts, and ooh boy, were they excited! I had about ten people test out the Hand Drive, and they were very impressed and enthusiastic. Almost every one of them said, “You should go on Shark Tank!”
I was impressed with how well the Hand Drive held its own. This was the first time we really just “let it go” for people to test. The testers were pretty brutal with it, but it didn’t show any wear and tear. They were banging it around, going in circles and dropping it all over the place, but the Hand Drive was strong and did not give in.
It was interesting having people try it and hearing their instant feedback. One comment kept popping up over and over again- they kept saying how easy it was and how great their back felt. A lot of the older people had some back trouble in their past, and were hunched over, so they just kept saying how relaxed they felt. It was very inspirational for me because I felt we had made something that really could change people’s lives. I was just watching one face light up after another as people tried it. The testers really got it, and that was awesome.
One observation in testing was that the height of the bar really depends on height of the person, and it is really a personal thing. The height of the bar also determines the posture of the user, for instance if the bar is shorter, the user has to lean forward more. A lot of the older people were small, and the Hand Drive did look a little big, but this is the beauty of it being a do-it-yourself project. The Hand Drive is 100% customizable.
Another observation had to do with the brake lever and the age of our testers. Many of the older users couldn’t imagine a brake lever being anything other than a brake lever. On our Hand Drive, the brake lever reverses the direction. It was funny watching them reverse direction over and over again as they reached for the brake! When we had originally thought of the Hand Drive concept we hadn’t really thought of it helping older wheelchair users too, but now we can totally see why it makes perfect sense for this to be a considerable chunk of the market. With the Hand Drive using bigger muscle groups it’s less tiring, and many of the older people get fatigued easily. That hunched over look you often see in elderly people comes from leaning over a walker or wheeling a wheelchair in the traditional way.
Overall, it was an incredibly inspiring day - to get out in the world and have people try the Hand Drive. We’ve been working in a bubble for so many months, guessing and supposing what a user’s needs might be. Having live feedback, and such positive feedback, was both helpful and energizing!