Not many of us ever envisioned we’d be rolling into a Wal-Mart while standing, but with the current technology craze, any expectations we might have had at the inception of our disability are quickly being erased. One such advancement is the mobile standing wheelchair. This increasingly popular innovation has become the next big thing in the evolutionary process of that four-wheeled contraption so many of us must rely upon.
There are nearly a dozen companies worldwide that produce mobile standing wheelchairs. The trend began to be commonly seen in the disability product world about 13 years ago. And with the possibility of an SCI cure on so many minds, wheelers and therapists alike are increasingly recommending them. It’s not rocket science really. Mobile standers are an easy way for the busy bees of this world — and for those who need help transferring — to keep their bones from becoming osteoporotic and their bodies in overall healthier shape.
It’s important to note that most insurance companies won’t pay for mobile standers (they prefer to cover a standing frame), or they may recommend a single “add-on” piece to a power chair instead, such as tilt or an elevation system. The reason? Power mobile standers can cost upwards of $25,000.
Still, these obstacles don’t detract from the excitement surrounding mobile standers. The technology seems to get better each year. But with development comes variety, and the variety can be overwhelming. From power to manual standers, to tilt, power recline, and power adjustable footrests, we’ve compiled a list of some of the more popular mobile standers on the market. By their very nature, these devices are taking the chair out of wheelchair.
Redman, known for its flashy ads featuring a blonde zooming away in a standing wheelchair, has created a mobile stander called the Chief 107SRX. Sam Redman, son of Redman’s owner, says its unique positioning system makes the Chief stand out among the rest.
“Our positioning system is in one piece, working together in harmony, not added on as others are. The result is a chair that feels solid and stays that way, and it’s smaller dimensionally,” says Redman, who also points out that every part of the chair automatically adjusts to support the user in either a sitting or standing position. “Our chair also has blendable positioning, meaning the functions — stand, recline, and leg elevation — can be blended together in almost any combination, restoring almost normal body movement.”
The Redman 107SRX weighs 285 pounds and tilts, reclines, and has elevated footrests, all available as standard features. It also has a lower sitting height compared to most other standers, so the user can easily sit under desks or under a table at a restaurant. But the most unique aspect of the Redman is the ability of footrests and back to move electronically, to any degree you like, whether you’re sitting, half-standing, or completely standing. The armrests are also adjusted for the standing position so the shoulders don’t slump. Overall cost: $29,857, including aforementioned electronic features. Redman’s Web site contains hundreds of users’ photos (all of them using their standers) and testimonials of the stander’s impact on their lives. Check it out at www.redmanpowerchair.com.
Altimate Medical, creator of the EasyStand standing frame, has come up with a manual mobile stander which it calls the EasyStand Mobile. This mobile stander is a much less expensive option since it’s manual, but this also means that the user must have stronger upper-body strength and be able to transfer. To move the stander, the user pushes two wheels that are at arm level when standing.
Jackie Kaufenberg, marketing manager of EasyStand, says the EasyStand stander is notable among the competition because of its safety features. “The EasyStand is very safe — it has locking push rims and uses a belt drive system that is much safer then a chain drive system. The EasyStand is also totally modular, so even if you start with a basic EasyStand stander (the non-mobile option), you could add any option later, including the mobile option,” she says.
Cost is $2,795 for the basic unit plus $770 for the mobile option — totaling $3,565 for the mobile stander. Insurance companies may be more likely to cover this product; however it’s not very practical for outdoor use (small wheels). It is mainly operated indoors by its users, one of which is a paraplegic chef at the Hyatt in Tampa Bay, Fla. Get more details at www.easystand.com.
One of the oldest stander manufacturers in the industry, Stand Aid of Iowa has been selling standing frames for 30-plus years. The company’s standing frame — the Stand Aid 1503 — has been on the market since the early ’80s and has an optional power-drive system, making this product a mobile stander as well. Jeff Wollmuth of Stand Aid says this aspect makes the chair unique.
“Our Stand Aid 1503 is a standing frame, not a standing wheelchair. With a standing frame, you get the best stand possible, a 100 percent vertical stand,” he says. Other notable features of the Stand Aid include the handy no-transfer-required design. “The 1503 lifts the user directly from the wheelchair and into a standing position. There is no transfer needed.” The chair accomplishes this through the use of a sling. The power drive function is only feasible to use in your own home, as its wheels are not built for long, outdoor use. The Stand Aid 1503 also comes with handy side supports. “With optional support pads such as back, lateral and upper chest, we can stand almost any level of injury,” says Wollmuth.
Cost? The Stand Aid is less expensive than many power mobile wheelchair standers — approximately $9,500. Check it out at www.stand-aid.com.
Levo has been selling mobile standers internationally since 1976. A Switzerland-based company, Levo manufactures both manual — the Levo Active Easy — and power mobile standers — the Levo Combi. The Levo Combi seems to be one of the more highly touted mobile standers available, considering that nearly every available feature comes standard and the company has been talked up as having great customer service.
“Each chair is carefully produced from the special requests and measurements of each individual,” says Thomas Rabe of Levo. “And Levo also builds the chairs so that there’s an opportunity to fit individual seating and backing systems.”
William D. Varner Jr., a C6-7 quad from Maryland, purchased the Levo Combi after trying out others on the market. “The Levo Combi is the best standing chair that I tried, and I tried a bunch,” he says. “The standing motion is so easy and you never feel like you are being pitched forward like you are with some of the other chairs.”
Michelle Hull, a L1 para from Orlando, Fla., owns a manual Levo stander, but only takes it out for occasions when standing could really come in handy. “I use it for special events, concerts, races, etc.,” she says. She even took it to the Daytona 500. Hull purchased hers used for only $1,700. A new Levo manual mobile stander costs $8,595. Both manual and power stand-up modes are available. The Levo Combi comes with power-adjust footrests, tilt and recline and costs $23,995. Log on to www.levo.ch for more info.
Permobil is often regarded as the Cadillac of the power wheelchair industry, with its black leather seating, headlights and futuristic design. The Permobil C500 Stander upholds Permobil’s reputation for sophisticated design and reliability. However, some users report that nuts and bolts have a tendency to loosen and need to be checked regularly. Other users have reported having difficulties fitting under tables and desks.
The C500 definitely has its advocates. “The C500 Stander is a great wheelchair, far above the rest,” says Denny, a Permobil user from Englewood, Fla. He also praises Permobil dealers for their sales and service attention. “They will make sure everything, from the timeliness of delivery to necessary upkeep, is completed. Finding the right provider is a number one concern, and Permobil providers will go out of their way to help the end user.”
The Permobil C500 Stander, without a seat elevator, tilt or recline, costs $14,211. Adding in electric functionality for seat lift, tilt, leg-rest and backrest can bring the price up considerably. The C500 is capable of standing upright from any position, including fully reclining. Find out more at www.permobil.com.
Frank Mobility is a German-based company that offers a manual mobile stander called LifeStand USA, which comes in either manual or power stand-up modes. Frank also recently debuted a powered mobile standing wheelchair called the LifeStand Compact. The LSC features an electric sit-to-stand function and can be driven either indoors or outdoors. The rear drive wheels have a quick-release function and sport flat-free solid insert 12.5-inch tires. The front casters are 7-inch puncture-proof pneumatics that may have difficulty surmounting challenging obstacles outdoors. The programmable control unit has swing-away capability. Frank Mobility’s manual mobile standers range from $8,595 to $10,995. The fully-powered LSC mobile standing wheelchair costs $24,495. A pediatric version is available for an extra $1,000. Get more info at www.lifestand-usa.com.
A few years ago, while researching an article for New Mobility, I took the Vertran — then owned by its creator, quad Jay Johnson — out for a test drive [see NM April 2004]. The original company, FENA Design, has recently been sold to Dane Industries, of Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Vertran’s motto is “unparalleled stability.” After taking it out for a spin in early 2004, I couldn’t complain. Standing and driving simultaneously felt amazing, but going down curb cuts was a bit scary. Other users have mentioned this too. Sam, from Augusta, Ga., felt that solid traction was lacking when he left the sidewalk surface. “However,” he adds, “it has been mechanically trouble-free since I got the chair and the company has been very good at working with me when I had problems.” Vertran is a rear-wheel drive chair and popular add-ons such as a seat elevator or tilt/recline are currently unavailable. Cost is approximately $24,995. For exact numbers, contact Dane Industries at www.vertran.com.
Overall, the disability community has mixed reviews concerning this evolving upright technology. The consensus seems to be that a mobile standing wheelchair may not be the perfect mobility device for everyday use, especially more challenging outdoor applications. However, the practical advantages of being able to reach objects that are normally too high may offset whatever limitations a mobile standing wheelchair has. And for those moments when standing can influence how much enjoyment you gain from doing things at special events or in a crowd, such as at a wedding, a concert, a sporting event, or maybe hanging out at a bar, being upright and mobile is an awesome experience.