Autochair founder praised as mobility product clocks up nearly 20 years of service

August 22, 2016


A long-serving customer of Derbyshire vehicle adaptation firm Autochair has paid tribute to its founder for helping his wife retain her independence for nearly 20 years.

John Edwards said the expertise of David Walker, who set up the firm more than 30 years ago, had greatly benefitted his wife Hetty’s life after a scooter hoist was first fitted into their car in 1997.

Mrs Edwards has arthritis, which makes it difficult for her to get about and which is why the couple had bought a scooter in the first place, but it was too heavy for them to lift into their then car, a Mitsubishi Shogun, if they wanted to go further afield.

While looking for a solution, they were referred to Autochair by their Motability centre in Epsom, Surrey, and so they drove up to Bakewell, where Autochair was based at the time.

car_0.jpgThere they met Mr Walker, who measured their car and arranged for them to have a new 100kg Fold Down Mini Hoist fitted into their Shogun. 

The couple, who live in Worthing, Sussex, transferred the hoist when they changed their car to a Ford Galaxy in 2003 and they carried on using it until Hetty upgraded her scooter to a far lighter model, which, at 48kg, was light enough for Mr Edwards to dismantle and place into the boot himself.

But time has caught up with them again and Mr Edwards no longer wants to lift the scooter, so they have had a new Autochair Mini Hoist fitted into their brand new Galaxy, which they bought through the Motability scheme.

The original hoist has also come back into use – it is still fitted in the couple’s original Galaxy, which is now out in Spain, where the Edwards’s live during the winter months.

Mr Edwards said: “Mr Walker was working out of a small workshop when we met him in Bakewell and I recall that he was a very pleasant and a proficient engineer.480-mini-hoist-31799-1024x683_0.jpg

“Looking back, I’d really like to thank him, because that hoist has been of great benefit to Hetty over the years. I suppose it’s a bit prehistoric now compared to the latest version, but it worked fantastically well then and is still working today.

“We didn’t have to use it for a few years because Hetty’s new scooter was light enough for us to carry on a plane rather than drive to Spain, but we need a little bit more help these days, which is why we have got a new Mini Hoist fitted and it’s fantastic.”

Confined to a wheelchair following a road accident in 1975, David Walker invented a device mounted on the roof of his car which could load and unload his wheelchair, allowing him to travel to work independently.

When he started receiving orders for his product, he turned his invention into a living, establishing Autochair in 1983. 

The company now employs around 70 people at its state-of-the-art factory in the Meadow Lane Industrial Estate, Alfreton, and is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of vehicle adaptations, including its range of scooter and wheelchair hoists capable of lifting even the heaviest mobility devices on the market into the back of a car.

david-obe-928x1024_0.jpgMr Walker, who received an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen in October 2014 in recognition of his services to people with disabilities, took a back seat in the company in 2005, handing control of Autochair to his sons, Matthew, Jonathan and Nick.

Jules Allen, sales and marketing director at Autochair, said: “It’s wonderful that Mr Edwards has paid tribute to David, whose products and determination has changed the lives of thousands of people who would otherwise be unable to access their cars.

“It is also extremely affirming to know that the original hoist is still in working order and is still giving good service. The technology has moved on since then, but it’s testament to our commitment to manufacturing quality products that it is as good now as it was back in 1997.”

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