Reinventing the Wheel
The Latest Advances in Wheelchair Technology and Mobility Equipment
The wheel has been called the greatest mechanical invention of all time. Its invention meant for the first time that people could transport themselves as well as heavy loads in new ways. The wheel is also central to the wheelchair design, which has meant freedom for people with mobility challenges. Fortunately, mankind is not content with the status quo. As this year’s hottest new products show, much can still be done with this ancient invention to increase independence and improve quality of life.
Manual WheelchairsKi Mobility’s Rogue
Brace yourself for some tech talk: The Rogue rigid chair is designed with “RP Tuning” using a modified “rack & pinion” gear to create an indexed system designed to precisely adjust the caster stem to be perfectly square with the ground. Translation: The chair’s design enhances propulsion efficiency and helps keep all four wheels glued to the ground for greater stability and a more consistent ride. And the Rogue has more to offer: an integrated locking fold-down back, a flip-up footplate, infinite center-of-gravity adjustment over a 6" range forward of the backplate, and a choice of three alternate back positions to facilitate weight shifts and activities of daily living.
GET IT: Ki Mobility, (800) 981-1540, Web site
Manual wheelchairs clockwise from top left: Icon's A1, Ki Mobility's Rogue, Colours Wheelchair's Saber, Sunrise Medical's Zippie Zone, Invacare's Reveal, TiLite's Twist and Sunrise Medical's Quickie Q7.
You, like the wheels on your chair, are always in motion. Icon understands that and has designed a chair that can change with you. The highly adjustable A1 is engineered on a modularity design, which means each component, including wheel sizes, can be switched out to accommodate your changing needs. Seat widths are available from 12 to 19 inches and seat depths come in 14-18 inches. Front seat-to-floor heights are offered from 16 to 23 inches, with rear seat-to-floor heights of 14.5-23 inches. GET IT: Icon Wheelchairs, (888) 461-5759, Web site
Colours Wheelchair’s Saber
If the Saber had a middle name, it would be “Adjustability.” The rigid, aluminum-frame manual wheelchair was designed to change with the user. The chair features adjustable seat widths (14-19 inches), seat depths (14-19 inches), front (16.5-20.5 inches) and rear (14.5-19 inches) seat-to-floor heights, backrest heights (8-18 inches) and angles (85-120 degrees), and center of gravity (1-5.5 inches).
GET IT: Colours Wheelchair, (800) 892-8998, Web site
Sunrise Medical’s Quickie Q7
The Quickie Q7 doesn’t want to be known as just another lightweight chair. It wants to be the lightest. Designed with aerospace 7000-series aluminum that is extruded, bent and welded to form its frame, the manual chair features oval tubing to reduce flex and enhance strength and rigidity. The ShapeLoc heat-treatment process converts the soft aluminum to hardened T6 aluminum. The result is that the Q7, available in adjustable or active rigid frame styles, can be configured to weigh just 14 pounds with rear wheels and locks.
BONUS: Choose from more than 20 frame colors and six hardware colors for a completely customized ride.
GET IT: Sunrise Medical, (800) 333-4000, Web site
Sunrise Medical’s Zippie Zone
Kids and teens looking to optimize their style while cruising in an adjustable rigid wheelchair will be psyched about the Zippie Zone. Some of the newest options include a glow-in-the-dark frame color, gold anodized parts, Spinergy wheels and side guards with built-in hub lock. On the more technical side, the chair weighs as little as 14 pounds with a 10-by-10-inch configuration. Oh yeah, and that growth adjustment we mentioned includes 3 inches of depth in the frame and an extra 2 inches of seat sling upholstery.
GET IT: Sunrise Medical, (800) 333-4000, Web site
The Twist makes growth change easy with a 1-inch aluminum frame design that provides simple installation of seating components. The Tru-Fit System also makes adjustments a snap. Front seat height can be changed independently of casters and forks. Plus the Tru-Fit System reduces the number of holes in the frame to make the overall chair more durable. Compact wheel locks are easy for little hands to use, and DASH kid-sized high-performance rear wheels help active users to keep moving.
GET IT: TiLite, (800) 545-2266, Web site
What do you want in an ultralightweight rigid wheelchair? How about customizable adjustability? The Reveal, designed with 7000 series aluminum and an open frame for easier transport, features adjustable center of gravity, rear seat height, caster angle and back angle. Plus the chair can be fitted with Matrx seating for even more customization.
GET IT: Invacare, (800) 333-6900, Web site
Power wheelchairs clockwise from top: Ottobock's Skippi and Permobil's M300 PS Jr. and M300 Corpus 3G.
Ottobock’s Skippi is much more sophisticated than its fun primary color scheme lets on. Built with multiple seating interface options, the power chair can grow with the child for extended years of use. Skippi also has alternate drive options such as ASL head array, sip-n-puff and chin control. The chair is built narrow to traverse tiny indoor spaces and versatile to drive on rugged terrain outdoors. But parents and caregivers get the final word on exploration with a remote stopping option.
GET IT: Ottobock, (800) 328-4058, Web site
Permobil’s M300 PS Jr.
What’s the difference between children and adults? The size of their toys. Permobil took this mantra to heart when designing the M300 PS Jr. Although the chair is built to a smaller scale for children, it harnesses the power of the M300 series power chairs including a tight turning radius for indoor and outdoor maneuverability as well as the Climb and Tracking System for overall chair stability and climbing ability. This pediatric model comes equipped with a seating system that grows with the user. In addition, the armrests attach to the backrest canes to free up space on the seat rail for accessories.
GET IT: Permobil, (800) 736-0925, Web site
Permobil’s M300 Corpus 3G
The path from one point to another is not always a straight line; neither is flat. That’s why the M300 Corpus 3G power chair is built with a patent-pending Climbing and Traction Link system. With the system’s provided stability, the chair can climbing obstacles 3 inches forward and 2 inches in reverse and maneuver various surface types. Don’t worry about the rest of the chair keeping up. The M300 Corpus 3G is stacked with large, 8-inch casters and flat-free drive tires and gel inserts to absorb shock and steel struts to lessen the impact. Much like the rest of this chair, performance can be adjusted to the user. The M300 Corpus 3G also features a 20-inch turning radius, PG 120-amp R-Net electronics and two speed packages (6 and 7.5 mph).
GET IT: Permobil, (800) 736-0925, Web site
Clockwise from top left: Rifton's TRAM, Golden Technologies' "Think Pink" Shroud and Lift Chair Pillow, and Switch-It's MicroPilot Mini Joystick.
Ah, the dreaded transfer. If anything could be more welcome in the world of mobility, it’s a product that makes this process easier. Enter the Rifton TRAM (TRansfer And Mobility device). Connoting images of scaling a mountain, this three-in-one product accomplishes sit-to-stand lifts, supported ambulation and seated transfers with no under-body sling, which is great for toileting. The TRAM also manages to be compact and maneuverable, weighing slightly more than 70 pounds. Although this product is suited for healthcare settings such as clinics and hospitals, its size makes it suitable for the home as well.
BONUS: The TRAM can be operated by a single caregiver.
GET IT: Rifton, (800) 571-8198, Web site
Golden Technologies’ “Think Pink” Shroud and Lift Chair Pillow
Although you might not remember when it started exactly, pink has become the color synonymous with breast cancer. These days you can buy pink ribbons for your car, pink t-shirts and even a pink toaster to support research for a cure and raise awareness about the importance of early detection. Now you can also donate money for the cause through your mobility equipment purchases. Golden Technologies has partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to release two pink products: a pink shroud kit for the Buzzaround XL GB116 scooter and a pink head pillow for use with Golden lift chairs. Proceeds will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
GET IT: Golden Technologies, (800) 624-6374, Web site
Switch-It’s MicroPilot Mini Joystick
The MicroPilot Mini Joystick enables users to activate their chairs with as little as 10 grams of pressure. Perfect for individuals who have limited movement, the device offers proportional control with little joystick throw. Sensitivity can also be adjusted, and the joystick is compatible with a variety of other expandable electronics currently available.
GET IT: Switch-It, (800) 376-9888, Web site
Gait trainers from top: Ottobock's Walk Star Posterior and Yogi Anterior Walkers, and Prime Engineering's Kidwalk.
Ottobock’s Yogi Anterior and Walk Star Posterior Walkers
Whether your child needs support in the front or back for walking, Ottobock has you covered with its new Yogi Anterior and Walk Star Posterior walkers. Both gait trainers are ideal for younger children. The Yogi is equipped with extra-low hand grips for little hands and a friction brake for assistance during unstable walking. The foldable Walk Star is built to grow with the user, offering various accessories to suit many different clinical conditions. In addition, this gait trainer features swivel front wheels for quicker turns as well as locking front wheels for stability. The Yogi comes in two sizes; the Walk Star comes in five sizes and three colors.
GET IT: Ottobock, (800) 328-4058, Web site
Prime Engineering’s Kidwalk
All kids need a means to explore their environment independently to gain valuable neural and motor skills and learn spatial relationships. That was the goal when Prime Engineering teamed up with therapists at Stanford University’s Rehab Engineering Center. Meet the Kidwalk, the brain child of that collaboration. Kidwalk helps children with mobility limitations function as the busy bodies they are with hands-free functionality, a small turning radius for quick movements and lateral weight shifting during ambulation—all while keeping the pelvis aligned with the trunk and legs.
BONUS: The Kidwalk rolls over carpet.
GET IT: Prime Engineering, (800) 827-8263, Web site
Clockwise from left: Bruno's Valet Plus, Kempf's DARIOS and Amramp's Modular Ramp.
Bruno’s Valet Plus
Bruno takes the customized automotive seat to new heights with the Valet Plus, a seat that rotates and moves out of the vehicle and down to the desired height all while providing individualized fit and legroom for the user. Features include power forward/backward seat adjustment, full seat recline and an integrated flip-up footrest. The Valet Plus turning seat is also designed with recline levers, Ultraleather Plus and Metro tech fabric in various color options and a manual backup system.
BONUS: Original vehicle seatbelts can be used with the Valet Plus.
GET IT: Bruno Independent Living Aids, Web site
The DARIOS transforms the steering wheel into the control center for driving, enabling users to drive entirely with their hands. Pressing the Digital Accelerator Ring accelerates the car, and braking is accomplished with a left or right hand brake. The system’s sensitivity can be adjusted to the user, and the vehicle’s original pedals retain their functions. DARIOS can be deactivated via a dashboard switch. The system fits most vehicles, including sedans, trucks, vans, minivans, SUVs and sports cars.
BONUS: Steering column adjustments and airbags remain functional.
GET IT: Kempf, (408) 773-0219, Web site
Amramp’s Modular Ramp
Getting into a building—either a home or business—is now a little easier. Amramp’s modular ramp is a modular steel system that can be rented or purchased on a temporary or permanent basis. The company offers free evaluations and a quick, easy installation process that takes only a few short days. The modular ramp systems are also constructed with 100-percent recycled and recyclable steel.
GET IT: Amramp, (888) 715-7599, Web site
Aids to Daily Living
Clockwise from left: Mobi's Mobilegs, Supracore's Stimulite Tension-Adjustable Back and Ride Designs' Java Adjustable Back.
Inventor Jeff Weber, known for designing the Herman Miller Embody chair, had an idea to improve the comfort of traditional crutches. After using crutches while recovering from a broken heel, Webber was determined to improve the stability of the design and reduce secondary injuries. Enter Mobilegs, which features a plush, aerated saddle that curves to match the shape of the body. The crutches also pivot and support weight on a spring. The handgrips are redesigned for more even distribution of weight. The feet rock to replicate the motion of walking.
GET IT: Mobi, (612) 605-5898, Web site
Seating & Positioning
Supracor’s Stimulite Tension-Adjustable Back
Honeycombs aren’t just for busy bees. Supracor’s new Stimulite Tension-Adjustable Back uses a honeycomb construction to improve air flow vertically and horizontally through the back. The design of the cushion also improves pressure distribution, providing comfort and stability. The flexible honeycomb cells stimulate blood flow to enhance circulation and prevent bruises in the lower back. Adjustable velcro straps ensure a custom fit while accommodating for kyphosis or posterior pelvic tilt. The back is available in widths 14-24 inches and heights 12-16 inches.
GET IT: Supracor, (800) 787-7226, Web site
Ride Designs’ Java Adjustable Back
Ride Design isn’t joking about this product’s adjustability. The Java Adjustable Back is designed to relieve sacral pressure, with independent adjustability for pelvic support and trunk balance. Plus the back can be personalized for contour with a new Flexa-just gluteal support. Java is available in two heights and widths from 12 to 20 inches in both regular and tall.
GET IT: Ride Designs, (866) 781-1633, Web site
Want to learn about even more products on the market? Check out our Products & Technology categories accessible from the home page main menu.
Laurie Watanabe, editor of Mobility Management, contributed to this report.