by Bill Dupes

Wheelchairs have been around a lot longer than you might think. The earliest the push rims of standard wheelchair representation of a wheeled chair has been found in a Chinese engraving that dates back to 525 A.D. The first true wheelchair was made in 1595 for King Phillip II of Spain.

In the early 1930s, Harry Jennings, an engineer, built the first folding, tubular steel wheelchair for Herbert Everest, a paraplegic friend. The revolutionary folding X-frame design greatly increased mobility and established an industry standard. Together they founded Everest & Jennings, a company that monopolized the wheelchair market for many years.

The first electric wheelchair was created by George J. Klein in the aftermath of World War II to enhance mobility for veterans with disabilities. However, Jennings and Everest are credited with creating the first mass-produced electric wheelchair in 1956. These chairs were essentially nothing more than standard manual chairs with a battery and motor attached to the large wheels. But this was an important step, and many advances have been made from that point forward. If you think there's nothing left to improve upon the wheelchair, however, think again.

The Wijit / Courtesy of SuperquadThe Wijit

The Wijit is a new mechanical wheel system that is compatible with most manual wheelchairs and requires only a minor installation process. It replaces the push rims of standard wheelchair wheels with a lever system that the rider pumps to move forward. The makers of Wijit state that it provides up to 60 percent more energy efficiency than regular push-rim propulsion, meaning riders can climb steeper ramps – or simply go farther while using less energy.

There's also a reverse gear and, most importantly, brakes: the levers are squeezed inward to apply unprecedented braking power. The levers are also easier on the palms and wrists than push rims. A future version of the Wijit will have a selectable gearing system, allowing riders to gear up to cover even more ground per push.

Adding the Wijit system to the standard manual wheelchair provides many benefits to the user. With the added power and safety gained from its lever design, it is also a low-cost and healthy alternative to an electric wheelchair for people with a wide range of disabilities who were previously unable to use a manual wheelchair.

Other Wijit features include:

  • Driver handle mode switch – to easily switch between forward, reverse and neutral.
  • Quick-release wheel system – for easy wheel-swapping ability and wheelchair transport.
  • Two specialized wheel versions – The Beauty (smooth tread for around town and indoor mobility) and The Beast (rugged tread for outdoor activities).
  • Advanced, streamlined wheel design – only adds up to an inch to the overall width of the wheelchair.

The system costs about $900 per wheelchair, versus about $500 for regular wheels. It is approved and reimbursable by Medicare.

The Roll Aid / Courtesy of Stand-Aid of Iowa, Inc.The Roll-Aid

Now you can have greater freedom, mobility and independence without the expense of a fully powered wheelchair or scooter. The Roll-Aid is a convenient, portable add-on device that provides powered drive to manual wheelchairs. The Roll-Aid has a range of 20 miles on a full battery charge, at a speed of 5.5 mph (battery charger included).

The Roll-Aid adapts to fit most standard, collapsible wheelchairs quickly and easily. Simply wheel up to the Roll-Aid, engage the locks on your wheelchair, then push the reverse paddle on the Roll-Aid, and it will attach automatically. To return to manual control, just squeeze the release handle and push the forward paddle on the tiller (steering control), and the unit will detach itself from under the chair. The Roll-Aid allows users to continue to fold their wheelchair for transport purposes by simply removing the lift bar – no tools required.

The tiller is removable, allowing the user to transfer without disengaging the unit. Also, by removing the tiller, the drive wheel is disconnected from the motor, enabling you to wheel right up to a desk or table.

The Roll-Aid will fit in most car trunks, allowing you to take it with you wherever you want increased mobility and independence. The heaviest piece weighs only 30 pounds. Optional accessories include:

  • Battery indicator
  • Travel case
  • Basket
  • Tiller holster
  • Treaded tire

The Platform Wheelchair Dolly / Courtesy of Roleez Wheels, Inc.The Platform Wheelchair Dolly

Now you can enjoy the beach, parks and more from the comfort of your own chair. The Platform Dolly lets you cross soft sand, mud, snow, gravel, grass and other difficult terrain like no other wheels can. Equipped with the patented Roleez® Go-anywhere Wheels, the Platform Dolly allows safe and secure wheelchair transport while you remain in your own wheelchair. This unique, highly maneuverable wheelchair carrier is safe, easy-to-use, and accepts most standard wheelchairs. Additional features and benefits include:

  • Elimination of the need for an all-terrain wheelchair.
  • Elimination of the risk and difficulty of chair-to-chair transfers and navigating natural barriers.
  • Three-wheeled design for exceptional stability and maneuverability.
  • Tough, powder-coated aluminum frame that will not rust or deteriorate.
  • Four-point, tie-down strap system for securing your wheelchair or other equipment.
  • Folding wheel ramps with handle that provide a sturdy grip and easy loading and storage.
  • Lockable brake system for safe, secure operation and parking.
  • Quick-release rear wheels and detachable front caster wheel.
  • Easy assembly and disassembly for transport and storage.
  • Weight capacity: 400 pounds.

The Tiralo / Courtesy of Tiralo, LLCThe Tiralo®

The Tiralo is a floating deck chair mounted on three wheels. While not a true wheelchair, it creates a new way for people with disabilities to have fun in the sun. It's designed to go anywhere–including the water.

Pulled manually, the Tiralo's wide wheelbase and low center of gravity improve stability and make it safer to roll on difficult trails and beaches. The Dunemer™ wheels are cleverly designed to be soft enough for a comfortable ride, wide enough not to sink into the sand, and light enough to support anyone in the water up to 300 pounds. With quick-release wheels and Floatrests™, the rugged aluminum frame folds for transport in a matter of seconds.

Resources

Roleez Wheels
www.roleezwheels.com

Roll-Aid
800/831-8580
www.blvd.com/standaid/roll_aid.html

Superquad
800/659-4548
www.wijit.com

Tiralo
877/244-2810
www.tiralo-usa.com

Last updated: 08/18/2014
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