A Segway for mobility

From left, Barbara Thompson, Tom Thompson, and Beth Johnston.
From left, Barbara Thompson, Tom Thompson, and Beth Johnston.

by TOM THOMPSONCharlotte, North Carolina

The first time I ever saw a Segway I immediately recognized it as something that could possibly help my mobility. My FSHD had progressed to the point where I was having difficulty walking.

At my first opportunity I went to a Segway dealership to try one. It was an amazing machine, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t ride it very far without getting tired due to the fact that it is designed to be operated only while standing. If only it had a seat!

I began to think about how I could make a seat that I could adapt to a Segway. I tried finding a local person or company that could help me fabricate one but without any success.

One day a thought came into my head: Maybe someone already has created a seat. I googled “seat for Segway” and was surprised to find three or four different seats. After some research and phone calls, I decided to purchase a Segway and order one of the seats.

The seat I ordered turned out to be the correct choice. I found that the way it works is that it hacks the Segway control system, causing it to think a rider is standing on it. Over the next few months I was able to develop a system that allowed me to use the Segway safely.

I have now used my Segway for over 10 years, and it has allowed me to do things that I never would have been able to do otherwise. A Segway has much more maneuverability and versatility than a scooter or wheelchair, and the most amazing thing about it is the reaction it creates in those who see me on it. It diminishes the effects of my disability to a great extent.

I must caution anyone who may be interested to understand that there are some dangers in using a Segway in this way. The Segway company does not build seats or recommend that a Segway be used with one. Many professional medical personnel will see me riding it and say something like “That looks dangerous,” but also many have reacted with “Wow! What a great idea!”

I choose to use it the way I do, knowing the potential hazards, because it is functional, exhilarating, and liberating in much the same way as riding a motorcycle or flying an airplane would be.

Editor’s note: The FSH Society does not endorse or recommend any specific inventions. Readers who choose to try these ideas out do so at their own risk.



3 responses to “A Segway for mobility”

  1. I’ve wondered about a seat on Segway as though still walking with use of arm crutches or Nitro Drive Walker distance is an issue. Which model of seat did you select?
    Thanks, Mary Jane Niles

  2. Article led me to check out other transportation as have been following Zeen Walker but Ogo Technology has a hands free wheelchair; compact enough to get into back of my Subaru. Suggest all watch the video on their website.


  3. I too shared your dream of a Segway with seat. Interestingly the technology behind the Segway was also behind the J&J iBot chair which failed in the marketplace due to its prohibitive cost. Interestingly they we co-developed under projects code named Fred and Ginger. Unfortunately the iBot technology seems to have gone the way of the Space Shuttle and Concorde SST. You know how much you have invested in your customized device but if it were manufactured and sold as a medical device the cost would probably be north of $60k.

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