Support more than cars and wheelchairs
- 4 minutes to read
- 10 January 2019
Support more than cars and wheelchairs
At the campus for people with spinal cord injury (SCI) in Nottwil there is not only the hospital Swiss Paraplegic Centre. To show you more, Johannes and I had an exclusive tour last September through the company Orthotec.
Found in 1994, Orthotec is a subsidiary company of Swiss Paraplegic Foundation. Defining Orthotec as a wheelchair company is not entirely accurate because they offer more than that. Having offices and workshops all around the Nottwil campus, Orthotec specializes in four main areas: rehabilitation technology, incontinence supplies, orthopedic technology and vehicle conversion.
The car “magicians”
The first place we visited during the tour was the Orthotec’s vehicle workshop. It is where Orthotec’s mechanics convert normal vehicles to accessible ones, making it possible for drivers with disabilities to get around independently and comfortably. Whether it’s adding a wheelchair lift to the car, modifying the steering system, or anything clients may think of to improve their driving experience – Orthotec does its best to make it happen at this workshop.
Why would you want to modify a vehicle if there are already wheelchair accessible vehicles on the market? Orthotec shared that most accessible vehicles on the market can only meet the minimum needs of their clients. Moreover, the cost of vehicle conversion is covered by the disability insurance – in Switzerland usually for one vehicle per person with SCI every 10 years. Therefore, clients can in principle pick any vehicle they want for Orthotec to convert into one meeting their specific needs.
I was really impressed when Orthotec told me that it is possible to convert any vehicle into an accessible one. At that very moment, an outstanding luxurious orange car drove in! My head immediately filled with the images of the film “Transformers”. Can they really adapt such a car to the needs of a person with SCI? Let’s find out at the end of this blog post.
Learning how to drive again
Orthotec does not only help converting vehicles. They are also in partnership with driving schools, which offer driving lessons with Orthotec’s customized vehicles. Drivers who cannot drive normal cars anymore due to SCI will need to take about 10-15 driving lessons with an adapted car. In addition, they have to pass a driving test before they are permitted to drive again. The procedures on how to obtain a new driving license after SCI can be found here.
But first, the driver will have to learn how to get on and off the car in wheelchair. Orthotec offers a place where patients of Swiss Paraplegic Centre can practice the transfer from a wheelchair to a car and vice versa with their occupational therapist. With a model adapted car, it is one of the first places many patients would visit during their rehabilitation. Orthotec has also displayed different systems of steering wheels in the same area, so that people can try and find a suitable one for their future driving.
The hub of wheelchair professionals
Johannes and I moved on to visit the wheelchair display room. Actually, both of us had a visit of the room once already in August. However, that was before Orthotec’s move to their renovated office space. Now the newly furnished display room is at least triple the size of the old one, offering more space for clients to try out a variety of wheelchairs together with Orthotec’s consultants.
The selected wheelchairs will then be adapted by the team of mechanics at Orthotec’s own wheelchair workshop at Swiss Paraplegic Centre. Many patients find it convenient to purchase their wheelchair at Orthotec because it fits to their timetable at the Centre. However, one does not need to be a patient at the Centre to enjoy such services. With over 20 years of experience in rehabilitation technology, Orthotec is serving any clients in need, such as the elderly, people with SCI, multiple sclerosis or mobility issues – clients in and out of Swiss Paraplegic Centre.
Integration and lifelong support
Another popular service of Orthotec is that they sell incontinence supplies. This supports the idea from Guido A. Zäch, the founder of Swiss Paraplegic Foundation. His vision:
“Providing patients with comprehensive rehabilitation and helping them return to their family, professional and social lives.”
This is also the goal of Orthotec: offering holistic solutions to their clients. At the last part of our tour, we got to visit other areas where Orthotec professionals present and customize assistive devices for their clients.
For more details on the products and services offered by Orthotec, visit their website at https://www.paraplegie.ch/orthotec/de. You may also subscribe to their newsletter to receive Orthotec’s latest updates on services and events such as the Rollivision fair or the Swiss-Handbike-Day.
Finally, back to the luxurious orange car we mentioned earlier in the article: after one week, around 40 working hours, the car was successfully customized according to the owner’s needs. Bravo – one more Orthotec masterpiece on the street! ;)
Do you know Orthotec? Which other company can you recommend? We are happy to know about your experiences!