LivAbility Magazine
Photo shows a view of desert terrain, big rocks in the background, and scrub against a big blue sky. In the foreground is a young woman on the Terrain Hopper, a wheelchair accessible all-terrain vehicle designed specifically for wheelchair users to enjoy desert surroundings.

The chair that goes everywhere

Story by Loren Worthington
Photos by Loren Worthington

The TerrainHopper was invented in the U.K. in 2010. The first US-built models will hit the trails this summer when production begins in Tempe, Arizona.

The TerrainHopper is more like an off-road vehicle than a wheelchair. Designed for a wheelchair user, its tires, suspension, seating and steering are more akin to an off-road utility vehicle. When it comes to having fun, that’s a very good thing.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find the design has many features that allow people with many types of disabilities to get out and enjoy nature.

Let’s get this out right now; it’s not cheap, not even close. Base price starts around $17,000. Moving on…

The Hopper is four-wheel drive. Each tire has its own electric motor and combined with the independent suspension you can really get out beyond just a gravel trail. It’s built for dirt, snow and sand and can crawl up some steep inclines with confidence. It feels solid when cornering and does a good job of not chewing up trails and land. That’s important when venturing into our natural parks. The ADA states that a motorized vehicles (battery-powered) can be used by PwDs in areas not ordinarily allowed if the individual is using it due to a disability. That doesn’t give a rider carte blanche to go hog wild. Land managers and park operators can take action if and when the usage is deemed unsafe for anyone at the park.

Two people pose with the terrain hopper.Steering is accomplished either with tradition handlebars or an optional joystick controller. Braking happens just like a power wheelchair; let go of the throttle and you slow to a stop.

If there is anything in the TH’s design that limits who can use it, it is the 25-inch seat height and wide body that makes for a fairly difficult transfer. Not all wheelchairs will be able to get near the seat for a simple jump or slide across to the seat. Once in, the ‘cockpit’ is really comfortable. The frame wraps around you to improve stability. The seat and controls are adjustable for individual fit.

The control panel of the terrain hopper.

TH will cruise at 6-12 mph. Depending on batteries and terrain she’ll cruise 15-30+ miles on a charge.

The TH is by no means an everyday chair. Nor is it compact enough to stow in a car. In most cases, it will need to be hauled by trailer to your destination.

It’s a great platform for nature photographers, anglers, beach combers or those who just need some dirt road therapy and offers the opportunity to return to nature with friends and family.

Loren Worthington

Loren Worthington

Loren Worthington is Ability360’s Marketing and Communications Manager and Publisher of LivAbility Magazine. He has an extensive portfolio of work as a videographer and photographer with an emphasis on sports photography. He was an official photographer for TeamUSA at the Summer Games in Rio. You’ve seen his work in numerous Arizona-based outlets and nationally in New Mobility Magazine and Sports N Spokes.