Customers pay tribute to founder of disability aid company

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A longtime customer of an Alfreton vehicle adaptation firm has paid tribute to its founder for helping his wife retain her independence over 20 years.

John Edwards said the expertise of David Walker, who set up the firm more than 30 years ago, had greatly improved 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 without a motability scooter, but it was too heavy for them to lift into their then car if they wanted to go further afield.

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.

John said: “Looking back, I’d really like to thank David, 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.”

Now running a second car, the couple recently returned to Autochair to have another hoist fitted.

John 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.”

Confined to a wheelchair following a road accident in 1975, David invented a device mounted on the roof of his car which could load and unload his wheelchair, allowing him to travel 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, and is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of vehicle adaptations, including scooter and wheelchair hoists.

David, who handed control of the company to his three sons in 2005, received an OBE from the Queen in 2014 in recognition of his services to people with disabilities.

For more information visit www.autochair.co.uk.