Many entrepreneurs in the disabled sector started their businesses when they were faced with the challenges of their own disabilities. These successful businesses were bourne out of their own needs, but became beneficial to other disabled people. One such entrepreneur is Andre Thomas.
In 1979, the Baader-Meinhof gang was being hunted the length and breadth of Europe. Andre arrived at a road block where a nervous young police officer approached the car, gesticulating with his firearm. A shot went off leaving Andre with a C8/T1 level injury.
Before his accident, Andre had lived and worked in southern Africa. He was a keen sportsman, playing first league soccer and a mean round of golf. After rehab, Andre became a regular commuter between Austria and South Africa, timing his trips to live in constant, wheelchair-golf playing, summertime.
By 1997 Andre and the late Jean de Saint Claire had become firm friends. Their mutual sense of adventure, zest for life and desire to see wheelchair users enjoying the great outdoors, led them to organise an extreme adventure tour for a group of Austrian paras and quads. A 17-day excursion including, among other things, bridge jumping, river rafting, paragliding and jet skiing was put together.
The concept was radical in those days, so Andre organised a film crew to follow the tour. The footage appeared on several European TV channels. The motivational video Andre commissioned is still doing the rounds, here in South Africa and in Europe. Their other passion was to provide lightweight, high quality equipment at affordable prices. Realising they would have to make it themselves, they formed a company called RollAbility. In their first year of operation, they won an SABS design award for the RollAbility Jag Chair.
Andre started AltoMobility, in partnership with his daughter Gina. The focus is on state-of-the-art, active wheelchairs, using the best lightweight materials, driven by a mission to incorporate and improve the latest design and production techniques. With 27 years in a wheelchair, Andre use to say great equipment is only half the equation. “Service and backup are equally important. Without the correct set-up and seating position, even the best chair can cause major problems.” Andre ran a regular seating clinic in Cape Town and frequently loaded up his car and set off on solo trips around South Africa to visit clients and agents.
Behind Andre's light-hearted, mischievous personality lurked a tireless perfectionist. His product range bears witness to this, boasting some of the lightest and most compact active chairs on the market. The flagship of the range is the AltoMobility Select. Based on the Kuschall folding concept and weighing in at only 11.5 kgs, with wheels, it folds with a single hand movement and can fit into the smallest of cars.
AltoMobility also carries a full range of mobility aids and often arranges for the import of reconditioned specialist equipment from Europe, such as power chairs, stair climbers, Levo stand-up chairs and the like.
For more info www.altomobility.co.za.
Cell: 082 920 1690
Tel: 021 557 5195
Fax: 088 021 557 5195