Posted on Monday November 30, 2020
“To appreciate fully what my Amigos have done for me, you really need to know the full story. I’ve never put things down in writing before but perhaps it might be good therapy to do that. My first Amigo didn’t just enable me to get around, it enabled me to rebuild my life. Amigo is an inspired name for your company and its products; Al certainly knew what he was about when he designed the first power-operated vehicle and started the company. When you’re flying solo your psychological state is as important as your physical condition.”John Newton, Amigo User since 1984
John Newton is a longtime Amigo user from the UK. His first one purchased in 1984 – the yellow front drive unit we’re all familiar with. His Amigos have experienced an exciting life getting John around, including:
- Carried like a pharaoh down steps to a ferry in Jersey.
- Amigo seat left behind on a journey from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf.
- Steering column retaining bolt sheared and repaired at Amsterdam airport.
- Rear wheel came off in The Hague and Amigo replaced in 48 hours.
John Newtons’s Story
John has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). His first symptoms began in 1971 at the age of 29, and his doctors made the diagnosis in early 1972. Unfortunately, he was unaware of his diagnosis until almost a decade later. His condition deteriorated steadily over those ten years, including increased problems with mobility, writing, and fatigue. As John was experiencing early MS symptoms, he was working with Open University (OU), a new, innovative institution offering classes taught using multimedia packages based around written texts and including TV programs to be studied by students at home.
The University had its headquarters in Milton Keynes where the course material were created. The UK was divided into 13 regions for administrative purposes and every faculty had an academic, called a Staff Tutor, in every region to organize student support. John was Staff Tutor for the Math faculty in the North Region of England, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Students received materials by mail and would submit assignments periodically to a tutor for mark-ups. They were able to meet their tutor occasionally in study centers for tutorials.
John would visit these centers in his region to meet students taking Math and Computing courses along with their tutors. He also traveled to Milton Keynes to help in the production of courses, frequently driving 20,000 miles per year. Despite the gradual deterioration of his physical condition, he was able to carry out his duties.
He took a year’s study leave to earn a master’s degree in computing at Newcastle University. This experience was to be a turning point in his life. The experience was invigorating academically and personally but emphasized the problems he was having.
Life with Amigo
Upon returning to OU, John Newton realized that his mobility problems were now affecting his ability to carry out his duties. He decided that working was more important than walking. After investigating the market, he purchased his first Amigo in 1984. From that moment, with his new found mobility and flying solo, as he described his situation, his life took off. He once had regular hospital appointments and was taking medication. But his neurologist discharged him, saying “There’s no point in your coming to see me anymore; all we do is talk about your Amigo!” John has had no medication or treatment for MS since 1988.
In 1994 the University began accepting students living in Western Europe. John’s region was given the responsibility for supporting these students. His area of responsibility had exploded. Travel by train and plane was now essential to be able to see students and tutors. From then until he retired in 2009, fellow travelers periodically saw his Amigo in airports are Europe.
The suitability of terrain for three-wheeled travel had to be taken into consideration when deciding his travel plans and trips. Paris and Athens proved to be problematic due to cobbled streets and an absence of ramps. Through the years, John traveled to Hamburg, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan and Vienna. He also frequently visited the Hague in the Netherlands, Geneva in Switzerland, and Neuss and Munich in Germany. Tutorial visits to the Channel islands, Jersey and Guernsey added many miles to his Amigo travel companion.
“Without my Amigos, I have three, life would be unimaginable, impossible,” John says.
Venturing across the globe on exciting personal trips and essential business meetings was made possible by his Amigo. From 1994 until he retired in 2009, fellow travelers periodically saw his Amigo in airports around Europe. The suitability of terrain for three-wheeled travel was also taken into consideration when deciding his travel plans. Traveling freely presented problems in Athens and Paris due to the lack of ramps and the cobbled streets. Through the years, John traveled to Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Vienna. He has also frequently visited The Hague in the Netherlands, Geneva in Switzerland, and Neuss and Munich in Germany. Tutorial visits to the Channel Islands, Jersey, and Guernsey added many miles to his Amigo travel companion.
John was even able to visit a childhood friend during three trips to New Zealand. These trips included adventures around New Zealand and a wedding where John “gave away” a family friend’s bride. John credits his Amigo with being a vital part of his traveling. It allows him to retain independence and perform work duties as well as day-to-day tasks.
Today, John lives in Newcastle, UK and is an avid user of technology to keep in touch with his friends and family. A proud grandpa of four and one great-grandchild, he travels whenever he can to see them.
John Newtons’s Pro Travel Tip for Amigo Users
John Newton highly recommends New Zealand for an accessible travel spot. “Traveling around New Zealand was so easy,” he tells us. “Only the big cities like Auckland and Wellington have hotels; everywhere else has motels that can be booked in advance. The New Zealand Tourist Board produces a book with details of every accommodation, complete with detailed maps of both islands.”