Rider Spotlight: John Arbino

Freedom Chair riders aren't just our customers - they're part of the GRIT family. Today's Rider Spotlight features John Arbino! Read on to learn about his adventures!

"Just knowing I have that ability, that I’m not restricted anymore; I know that if there is something that requires me being off road I don’t have to worry about it.”

About John

John was always active outdoors in nature. Hiking was a big part of growing up for him. He also mountain biked and was involved in sports. In 2003, while serving in the Army, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Luckily, he was able to continue serving for another 10 years. 

"I could still run and do all the physical things I needed to do at first to stay in the Army."

He retired in 2013 as a Major. After retirement, John wanted to continue to remain active, even from his wheelchair but was finding it difficult.

"I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t even go in my backyard. I had to stay on pavement. I live less than a mile from a 500 acre park, but I couldn’t go there. So I started looking for an option to get off road."

Why did John decide on the Freedom Chair?

John started doing research on manual off road wheelchairs because he knew the VA would not cover a powered off road wheelchair. He found the GRIT Freedom Chair, and the lever design really appealed to him. In addition, he loved that it was developed by students at M.I.T.

"College students are thinking outside the box. I loved that it was made by college students. I love supporting the younger designers and seeing what they are thinking."

What activities does John enjoy doing in the Freedom Chair?

John is finally able to explore the 500 acre park near his house.

"The first weekend I had it I went down to the park, and it was great because I could push around. Some of the trails are gravel and some of them are dirt, but it let me get out and enjoy the fresh air again. "

Sometimes, though, adventures can even be had closer to home.

"Just leaving the pavement; simple things like just going in my backyard . . . This is the best chair I’ve found that can do that."

What was John's experience like getting his chair through the VA?

John admits that every VA is different. In his case he had to stay pretty close to the process to make sure that it was approved.

"At first, they didn’t know what the chair was. When they first saw it they denied the request because they thought they had a motor on it. At first I didn’t know what had happened. It was explained to me that they thought it was a power chair so I went back down and showed them the website. They eventually understood what the chair actually was, and they put the request back."

While it was a few months between when the second request went in and he received his chair, and he had to be a bit of a "squeaky wheel," John feels it was 100% worth any effort and waiting he had to go through.

"I knew it would take a while getting this piece of equipment, but it was definitely worth it . . . It sounds cliché, but it’s life changing. It gets you out there doing what you want to do. "