In the last couple of years, the ever expanding industry committed to the development of mobility aids for people with disabilities has grown significantly. Among the products launched, improved and added to are power vehicles capable of standing up, climbing stairs, and supplementing the user's natural efforts. Others fold by their own power, and some have interchangeable parts. There are swivel seats for automobiles, walkers compatible with all terrains, wheelchairs that fit into a travel bag, and crutches and canes in a variety of colors.
In August 2003, Independence Technology, a Johnson & Johnson Company, announced that the iBOT 3000 Mobility System was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is now available.
The invention of Dean Kamen of DKEA Research and Development, with whom Johnson & Johnson partnered for its development, the iBOT 3000 is a multifunctional mobility system powered by rechargeable batteries. The system integrates electrons, sensors, and software components, which work together to mimic the principles of human balance. This balance system is programmed and calibrated to each user's center of gravity, enabling the device to realign and adjust its wheel positions and seat orientation to stabilize the user.
In addition to functioning as a traditional power chair at up to 6 miles per hour, the iBOT 3000 can elevate the user and enable him or her to move backward and forward, turn around while at eye level, and reach high places. It can also climb and go down stairs, navigate 4-inch curbs, and travel over grass, gravel, sand, and other uneven terrain. Its remote even allows the device to be driven into a sport utility vehicle (SUV) or van for easy transport.
Even with the required prescription, not everyone will be eligible to use this product, however. In some rehabilitation facilities, potential clients are screened by healthcare professionals to determine if they have the full range of abilities required to operate it.
Independence Technology is actively working with private insurance carriers, the Veterans Health Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to pursue appropriate reimbursement.
Earlier in 2003, Independence Technology launched iGLIDE, the first integrated manual assist wheelchair system. Though the casual observer will perceive little difference between a regular manual wheelchair and the iGLIDE, users can tell the difference. When the system is on, the user simply pushes the handrails. Sensors and microprocessors tucked away under the seat adjust to changes in the terrain, while the user's effort remains virtually the same. With the power off, the iGLIDE operates like a manual wheelchair.
In late 2002, Electric Mobility, the maker of Rascal scooters, formed a new division, UltraLite Vehicles, to handle the demand for lightweight transportable scooters. Among these is the AutoGo 550, which has a motor that automatically power folds the frame, footrest, and seat to travel or storage size with the touch of a finger and without bending or lifting.
Other features of the AutoGo are its power walking capability, a removable battery pack, a lightweight aluminum frame, its 300-pound weight capacity, flatfree tires, and a security key lock. Available accessories include the AutoRack, AutoLift and AutoRamp.
Other big news at Electric Mobility is the recent addition of several models (600F, 600C, 600T) to the Rascal ConvertAble Series, which allows users the opportunity to create a new scooter by purchasing an additional front section and adding it to the initial universal rear section. This can be done without tools at a fraction of the cost of an entire power vehicle.
While continuing to add to its Jazzy line, one of which is the Jazzy 1103 Ultra with a standard power elevating seat, Pride Mobility also recently introduced the Go- Go – an easily disassembled power travel vehicle – and a new line of power lift chairs. The company also formed a new division called Quantum Rehab.
Pride Casual Line lift chairs are available in two- and three-position models with overstuffed fiber-filled backs. They are available in a variety of colors.
Among Quantum Rehab's products are the Quantum Blast power chairs designed for users accustomed to rear-wheel drive, the Synergy manual- and power-positioning seating systems and specialty cushions, and the Quantum Dynamo and Dynamo ATS pediatric power chairs.
Invacare's HMV (highly maneuverable vehicle) combines outdoor performance and indoor maneuverability in a single vehicle by using the power wheelchair technology of center-wheel drive, which provides a much tighter turning radius. It also has scooter-style joystick controls.
Along with their new PWC 3300 power chair and Typhoon™ scooter, Bruno now has a unique transportation mobility system, TAS™ (Turning Automotive Seating™). Designed to meet a variety of lifestyle needs, Bruno TAS products can be installed in minivans, sedans, full-size vans/SUVs/pickups, and more, offering physically challenged individuals an easier method of entering and exiting their vehicles.
Two of Invacare's recent additions to their manual wheelchair line are the Spree XT for some pediatric consumers and the Compass SPT for adults. The Spree XT is a lightweight folding tilt wheelchair that can be adjusted as the child grows. It offers Quick Fit Washers that snap onto the frame and make adjustment faster and easier and includes Transport Ready Brackets for safer travel.
The Compass SPT is both a standard and self-propelling tilt-in-space wheelchair. It features front-wheel drive for easy self-propulsion and can be tilted up to 45 degrees.
In addition to its popular pediatric chairs including the Zippie TS folding model featured in the July/ August 2002 issue of inMotion, Sunrise Medical recently introduced several new models to its Quickie line, including the Chameleon and the IRIS.
Like its name suggests, the Chameleon, the latest member of the manual folding wheelchair line, adapts to multiple demands of the user and provider by using interchangeable parts and adjustable seating.
The IRIS (Intelligent Rotation in Space) uses a newly designed rotational tilt system that eliminates significant movement during tilting, providing stability and more comfort for the user.
The Landeez, the all-terrain and beach wheelchair described in the July/August 2002 issue of inMotion, was designed by Natural Access to bring amputees and other individuals with disabilities closer to nature. A kit containing interchangeable street wheels and a kit to convert the original Landeez into the new “Dune-Buster” for larger adults can also be purchased. The Landeez can be easily disassembled and fits into an optional travel bag.
The newest Roll-A-Bout is the ATV (all-terrain vehicle) 250, which is better-suited for the athletically inclined and others needing to move across difficult terrain (i.e., grass, uneven sidewalks, etc.). This all-terrain capability required that changes be made in the size and configuration of the tires. The ATV tires are pneumatic instead of rubber, the two front tires have been increased to l2 inches in diameter by 2-l/2 inches in width (from 8 inches by 1 inch), and each wheel has two sets of precision ball bearings, decreasing the energy required from the driver. Like the standard model described in the November/ December 2002 issue of inMotion, the ATV is adaptable to either leg and is equipped with foam cushions and brakes. (This later model is not available on a rental plan.)
Crutches and Canes
Continuing its efforts toward perfecting forearm and underarm crutches and canes for adults and children by embracing lighter materials, easy adjustment mechanisms, enhanced ergonomics and aesthetic design, Walk Easy has extended its product line to include a comprehensive selection of ambulatory aids and accessories, including crutch covers and holders and cane and crutch tips.
Keen Mobility is offering to replace handles on older models of their crutches with newly designed ones such as those on the latest Keen Navigator crutch, which is still available in three sizes and three different colors.
Also new at Keen is the Keen Adventure tip for crutches and canes and a family of flat and contour pressure-relieving wheelchair cushions to increase comfort and prevent pressure sores. Soon to come are pressure relieving beds, bed overlays, and heel cushions.
New from the United Kingdom is the Rural Pursuit Vehicle (RPV), an all-terrain vehicle with a front-loading system that can carry a person in a wheelchair in it. Pressing an electric button on the RPV lowers a platform hydraulically, allowing a manual or small-wheel power chair to be reversed onto it. The platform is then raised and the chair is automatically clamped into position readying the RPV to access public and private areas not normally available to people with disabilities. The RPV is controlled by a joystick similar to that on a conventional power chair.
Also Coopers of England has a wide range of walking sticks in a variety of woods, orthopedic canes, and folding travel canes.
On July 24, 2003, the New Scientist reported that severely disabled individuals unable to operate a power chair may one day be able to steer a wheelchair using only their thoughts. Unlike previous devices, this system does not use surgical implants, a chin-operated joystick, or a thin tube that is blown into to make it operate. Instead a skullcap peppered with electrodes monitors the electrical activity of the user's brain to make it work.
Today, people with disabilities have many options to choose from in mobility aids. Fortunately, with so many innovative individuals and companies working on new products, they can look forward to an even brighter future.