Judi Chapman invented the Care E On companion platform because she couldn’t keep up with her husband Byron’s wheelchair. A history of ankle problems had slowed Judi down, and when Byron started using a power chair, he got faster and she kept getting slower. As his independence grew, hers shrunk.
“We would do all of our errands in the morning hours because my wife could only walk so far,” says Byron. “By 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon, it was time to give her leg and herself a rest, so we would be home.”
That’s when Judi, “the one with the brains” in the relationship according to Byron, had the idea for the Care E On: a trailer-like platform that someone could stand on behind the wheelchair and ride with the wheelchair user. It took four years and “tons of tweaks and turns,” but they eventually devised a solution. The final model consisted of a 10″ x 13″ platform with three wheels under it that easily mounts to the back frame or battery case of most power chairs and flips up when not in use.
To test the Care E On, the couple took a trip to Washington, D.C. On Day One, Judi effortlessly rode around the capital for almost 16 miles. What had started as a personal project to improve their lives quickly evolved as people kept stopping them and asking where they could buy one.
“We went, ‘Wow, maybe we’ve stumbled onto something other people need,” says Byron. “We did some homework and we realized there wasn’t any type of device like this out there.”
Since 2008 Byron estimates that they have sold around 700 of the companion platforms, relying mostly on their website, Abilities Expos and word of mouth.
Barbara Brown has been riding on a friend’s Care E On for five years and swears by the product. “I love it,” she says. “My friend uses a power wheelchair, and I can’t walk fast enough to keep up with her on the beautiful bike trails around Sacramento.” After a long hike, Brown can just hitch a ride home. As an added benefit, if her friend gets tired, Brown can drive the chair using the auxiliary controls. “It’s a win-win. It gives her more independence, and I get the benefit too.”
Despite what you might think, Byron says the drain on the chair battery is minimal and that he has had no users encounter safety problems as long as they don’t do anything they wouldn’t normally do in a chair anyway. The Care E On is available for $375 at www.thecareeon.com. A larger, 13″ x 15″ version is also available for $100 more.