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Defence and Security Strategy

Paralympian Phil Eaglesham has smashed his fundraising challenge to raise enough money to build a revolutionary new wheelchair which could be unveiled at the Invictus Games this year.

The ex-marine, who was disabled by catching Q fever when on duties in Afghanistan, pledged to create the new device after facing challenges posed by being in a wheelchair.

The new device, named ‘Victor', aims to make life easier and less challenging for users, with Corporal Eaglesham saying it will make people feel ‘abled, not disabled.'

"It means that we can change other peoples' lives as well as my own," he explained. "I know the level of independence this will give me and other people. It will be a real life changer for me, my family and other people and I will be personally testing the prototype.

"I can't tell you how much it means to me to be able to see other people going down the street with it and know that I helped to change their lives for the better, giving them freedom, independence and helping them to feel less disabled and more able."

Corporal Eaglesham was backed in his £600,000 Crowdcube shares-based raise by businessman Brian Meaden, father of Dragons Den's Deborah Meaden. He is now over-raising with another 48 hours to go (deadline 23:59 on February 2nd).

The new wheelchair will be developed by engineers from Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and aims to overcome challenges such as:

  1. Social Height - being talked down to when you are sitting in a wheelchair is a frustrating experience as people treat you as ‘disabled'.
  2. Mounting Kerbs - most devices cannot climb a simple pavement so going from road to the path or even just crossing the road is often more of a challenge than it needs to be.
  3. Inside and Out - several devices will not fit through a standard door and therefore the users require numerous vehicles to get through a full day - e.g. one for home, one to go to the shops etc.
  4. Sitting at a table - several mobility devices have front steering and controls so the user cannot easily and discreetly pull up to a table.
  5. Look good, feel good - most mobility devices on the market have had little or no design input and we want our solution to make the user feel empowered.

Corporal Eaglesham is originally from Northern Ireland and served in Afghanistan as part of Taunton-based 40 Commando and caught the illness on his last day of a six month deployment. He now lives in Taunton with his wife and three children.

The physical and emotional devastation wrought by Q Fever led him to consider killing himself two years ago so that he would no longer be a burden to them.

The prototype of the wheelchair was unveiled at an event at the Imperial War Museum in London last year where a number of veterans and wheelchair users who attended were openly emotional about the possibility of using an affordable chair that raises them up to eye level.

Last year Corporal Eaglesham represented Ireland in the Paralympics Games in Rio in Air Rifle Shooting. Two prototype wheelchairs will now be built and Corporal Eaglesham is planning to take at least one to the Invictus Games for disabled service personnel in Toronto on 23rd September this year.

Corporal Eaglesham has been supported in his endeavours by The Royal Marines Charity; Canine Partners; Help for Heroes; Heropreneurs; Greenwich Hospital and Blesma.