An entrepreneur from Bridgenorth, Shropshire, has developed a treadmill for wheelchairs which enables disabled people to use their wheelchair to build their upper body strength from the comfort of their own home.
The Invictus Active Trainer (IAT) was developed by Paul Cooksey, 49, after Paul began to seek a way to get fit following a traumatic motorcycle accident in 2006 that left him paralysed from the chest down.
Since the IAT went on sale 10 months ago, over 50 models have been sold to everyday users from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Canada and USA.
The product has also been featured on Channel 4’s Paralympic Superhumans Show and trialled by the University of Worcester’s basketball team, as well as various nursing homes and specialist spinal units around the UK.
The treadmill consists of a ramp and four rollers that sit underneath the wheelchair, each of which has different resistance levels that can be modified individually. The rollers also come with built-in sensors and can synchronise with any cycling app to measure speed, distance and calories.
Paul, now retired, explained: “I’d put a lot of weight on after my accident and realised the only way I could lose it was to exercise, but the only part of my body that now works is my arms so all I can really do is push my wheelchair.
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“So to improve my strength and general fitness, I had the idea of creating a treadmill for wheelchairs. I investigated technology in the cycle world and tailored that technology to suit the wheelchair.
“I built a prototype using wood in my garage and after using it for a while I could feel myself getting quicker and stronger.
“The great thing about the IAT is that it can be dismantled and reassembled without any tools. Each of the four rollers also operate independently - ideal for improving balance, particularly for sports like wheelchair basketball or tennis.”
Paul’s wheelchair tennis partner Scott Smith, who runs design and marketing agency 3S Projects, also noticed a change in Paul’s fitness during tennis practice which led to a discussion that resulted in a partnership between the two in bringing the product to market.
Paul added: “After discussions we realised we could benefit from each other’s professional backgrounds. Scott has great experience in marketing and SEO optimisation and I had previously made a living in engineering, so we decided to combine our fields of expertise to promote the product.”
The product is now being sold and marketed through Scott’s company 3S Projects, and manufactured in Droitwich.
Scott and Paul have been supported in their work by leading local accountancy firm Baldwins, who have helped to provide tax relief for their research.
Dawn Owen, director at Baldwins in London Road in Shrewsbury, said: “This is a truly inspirational story for anybody out there that is looking to pursue a business idea. “
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