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Brothers lift funding to bring caravan hoist to wheelchair users

Aug 1 2012 Posted by Laura Canning

Two brothers from Northumberland have won funding to help launch their new invention – an electric hoist which can lift wheelchair users in and out of touring vehicles.

John and Jim Little, aged 68 and 73 respectively, sketched out the idea six years ago after Jim’s wife Carol became disabled through multiple sclerosis. The Belford Transfer Lift has been shown at exhibitions selling products for disabled people and is now able to be rolled out around the country.

‘It was out of necessity that Jim came up with the idea as Carol lost the use of her legs,’ John said. ‘At first he used to lift her in and out of the caravan but it became harder.

‘It is not easy to travel on planes with a wheelchair and the doors on caravans and motorhomes are too narrow for the chair. So it really means it is hard to go on holiday.

‘So Jim came up with this and since then they have been to Portugal, Spain, the Scottish Islands, all over. We thought lots of other people could be helped by this too.’

The brothers won £83,000 proof of concept funding from Business North East after they were introduced to Northstar, which manages the fund. They then refined their prototype with assistance from the engineering design consultancy at Newcastle University before sourcing a manufacturer in South Tyneside.

Richard Exley of Northstar said: ‘A patent application is pending, and disabled groups are saying there is nothing else like it in the world.

‘One of the best things about it is that you don’t have to alter the vehicle – which makes it much easier to replace your caravan or motorhome and sell the old one to able-bodied buyers. For anyone registered disabled, the device is VAT-free.

‘Jim and John have taken what was a scribble on an envelope, borne out of necessity, and turned it into a product that is to go nationwide.’

Including installation, the brothers' lift costs £4995.