Friday, 29 June 2018

Exploring Oxford & Visiting Quantum

It's hard to believe but it's already been 5 months since my Quantum powerchair was delivered, I guess it's true that time flies when you're having fun! I've done so much in the short time that I've had my chair but I've also had the pleasure of getting to know the team behind it all as well. It's fair to say that I'm a pretty big fan of my Q6 Edge 2.0, and Quantum in general, and if you tell me that you're in the market for a new powerchair then you'll be sure to get the full sales pitch from me! My powerchair has changed my life so much, as you'll read in my update post, and it's just made me even more passionate about everyone having the right wheelchair.

So, when I was invited up to Oxford to meet the team, see the buildline and explore the city, I couldn't say yes quick enough! The process of how such a complex powerchair goes from being just an order, to being a fully functioning piece of equipment within weeks fascinates me and I was looking forward to seeing where my chair was just months earlier. I realised that I really don't think about how everything I own comes to be in my hands enough, so I was interested to learn more about the process and the hard work that goes into a company like Quantum.

Day 1

Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
 Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
Photo by Maciek Tomiczek

I travelled up to Oxford in the morning on Day 1, surprisingly it was only an hours train journey from London Paddington. We couldn't have got nicer weather for the trip, thankfully not as hot as it's been this week but warm enough to worsen my sunburn from West End Live the weekend before! I met up with Nycole and Mike from Quantum, who I had lunch with the month before, as well as the photographer, Maciek Tomiczek, who was going to join us for the first couple of hours. Oxford just looked beautiful with the backdrop of blue skies, I couldn't have asked for a more stunning location to explore and take photos around. Everywhere you looked there was just the most incredible architecture, we easily could have spent a whole weekend exploring everything there was to see.

We saw The Bridge of Sighs, Radcliffe Camera, the Ashmolean Museum and of course the colleges. I took my DSLR with me and was never short of buildings to photograph, I can only imagine how inspiring it must be to study in that kind of environment, surrounded by so much history and breathtaking architecture.

 Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
Photo by Maciek Tomiczek

For lunch we headed to the covered market and found a little cafe called Brothers, being the typical 20 something I am, I opted for avocado on toast and let me tell you, it was the best avocado on toast that I've ever had. I can highly recommend it if you're visiting the area! Earlier on in the day Nycole mentioned Ben's Cookies and with it being just metres away from Brothers it seemed rude not to visit and try one. I assumed, wrongly, that it would be a little like Millie's Cookies but believe me, Ben's would win over Millie's any day of the week. I had a dark chocolate fruit and nut cookie and it was like tasting a little chunk of heaven. Again, 10/10 would recommend if you find yourself near one.

 Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
Photo by Maciek Tomiczek

After lunch we headed to Christ Church and looked around various parts of it, including Bodley Tower, which has a staircase within it that was used for some scenes in Harry Potter. The staircase leads up to the Ante-Hall, which is also known to have inspired the Great Hall in Harry Potter. We were also able to see the Cathedral which was just as breathtaking. We unfortunately couldn't see everything due to how old the buildings are, but the access for everything we could see was great and the staff couldn't have been more helpful.

After that we headed up to the top of the Westgate shopping centre to get a totally different view of the city. Again, if you're visiting then you should definitely head up there for a bite to eat or a drink, it's a really lovely space, especially when the weather is as gorgeous as it was that day. We opted for The Alchemist and I had the most extravagant G+T that I've ever seen!

 Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
 Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
Photo by Maciek Tomiczek

After an hour or so to rest in my hotel we finished off the day with dinner at Farmshop in Bicester Village, where we were joined by Tim, the Senior Director of International Sales who splits his time between the US and UK. It was my first time visiting Bicester Village and I can totally see why it's called a village because it really does look like one, I can imagine it would be a magical place at Christmas. The food was perfect to finish off a long day and I really enjoyed getting to know Tim, hearing about how the US Quantum team read my blog also and enjoyed my 3 month update post. It was really nice to hear that my words had made an impact on so many of the team, it's probably one of my favourite posts on my blog.

 Photo by Maciek Tomiczek
Photo by Maciek Tomiczek

Day 2

Day 2 was all about visiting the HQ, meeting the rest of the team and seeing the buildline where my powerchair was at the start of the year. I have to start off by saying that it was such a friendly environment, it really felt like it had the atmosphere of a small business, when in fact a look at the stock in the back will tell you that they need a bigger space to work in because they are doing so well.


I had a look around the showroom, with the Pride Mobility i-Go folding powerchair catching my eye the most. I'm in a few FB groups for wheelchair users and a day doesn't go by where people aren't asking about folding powerchairs, personally they don't fit my needs but they fill a gap in the market and people can't get enough of them! I also had the opportunity to try the 4Front, Quantum's latest offering to the powerchair market.

For those who don't know, you've got 3 options when it comes to powerchairs: front wheel drive, mid wheel drive and rear wheel drive. My powerchair is a mid wheel drive, which offers the smallest turning circle of the 3 and the 4Front is a front wheel drive, as the name would suggest. It drives very different to a MWD chair and it was my first time ever trying one out. Personally in terms of aesthetics, I love the way FWD chairs look but for me I just can't get used to how they drive and the larger turning circle! I think it's fantastic that Quantum are offering something for those who prefer a FWD powerchair though, and it still comes with the incredible iLevel system that I've come to love so much. I imagine the 4Front would perform really well outdoors!


As we looked around the buildline the team explained that for a while they were working in one long line, having to go back and forth between different stations and ultimately, adding on a lot of time to the process. They changed things around though and moved everything into a U shape, saving time and making the whole process a lot more efficient. As a result they are now down to just a few weeks from ordering to the powerchair being ready, they even completed a chair with iLevel within 24 hours recently! It was good to hear that they really believe in the importance of getting people their chairs as quickly as possible, they absolutely understand how much of a difference they make to people's lives, it was nice to see that there is a real human element within the company.


Whilst all of this was happening I was actually borrowing a Pride Jazzy Air to get around as Tim had suggested the night before that they borrow my Q6 for a couple of hours, make some upgrades and fix a few problems (I managed to lose a screw whilst tackling some pretty rough cobblestones in Oxford the day before!). I've already got backpack clips on my chair and the cup holder and phone holder attachments but one of the accessories that I completely forgot about when ordering was the USB charger. It's the upgrade that got the biggest reaction when I mentioned it on Twitter! They managed to tuck it away under my left armrest, so now I can charge my phone wherever I am! I remember when I had my old powerchair I used to see a woman on the train a lot who had a pretty cool tech set up with a phone holder, iPad holder and USB charger connected to her powerchair, I remember thinking how amazing it would be to have something similar. Independence and comfort are of course pretty high up on the priority list for me but it's these little extras that really make me love Quantum even more.


I also had my castor wheels, the small wheels at the front and back, changed for new ones after they found out how many miles I'd done in just 5 months (200 miles, if you're wondering). They were surprised that's for sure! I also had the drive wheel accent colour changed from the standard silver to black and I can't believe how much of a difference it's made to how my powerchair looks. It's so much sleeker now! As much as I love the bright colours that they offer, for me I just love how sleek my all black chair looks, especially in photos. Again, not high up on the priority list but my chair is an extension of my body so these things matter.


And then just like that it was time to get the train back home! I really enjoyed getting to know the team more and seeing the behind the scenes, as well as getting to explore Oxford for the first time. I think I'll definitely have to come back for a weekend at some point.

The trip showed me that I definitely went with the right company when choosing my powerchair, and it just made me feel even more passionate about everyone having as much choice as possible, rather than the choice of the same 2 powerchairs everytime on the NHS. The iLevel function on my chair is something that the NHS flat out don't fund, they don't see it as medically necessary but in terms of independence and being social, you couldn't put a price on it. Hopefully the introduction of personal wheelchair budgets will see this change soon.

For now though, I'm looking forward to teaming up with Quantum more this year!
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2 comments

  1. This was so fascinating to read. I love the fact that this company care, go Quantum!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, I was worried it might have been too long a post!

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