The 33rd annual International Seating Symposium, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology’s Continuing Education Program, returned to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, March 1-4. ISS is the leading educational and scientific conference for wheelchair seating, mobility and related technologies. For rehabilitation professionals, ISS is considered the must-attend event of the year.
This year more than 2,400 rehab professionals from over 30 different countries traveled to Nashville, where over 100 educational sessions and workshops covering all aspects of mobility-related disability were offered. The focus of the sessions was maximizing health, mobility and functionality for wheelchair users.
A major feature of every ISS is the 70,000-square-foot exhibit hall, which is a vital staple for mobility and rehab manufacturers to showcase their latest innovations and products. This year over 100 exhibitors filled the hall, giving attendees the opportunity to see and evaluate the latest in adaptive equipment — featuring new technology, manual and power chairs, cushions, accessories, adaptive sports equipment and more.
Here are some of the cool mobility-enhancing products that were featured at this year’s ISS exhibit hall. Where Medicare coverage is indicated, the reader can assume that private insurance is also possible. Medicaid coverage is less certain, as it is determined by individual states and is often restricted by tight budgets.
APEX CarbonManufactured by Motion Composites of Canada, the APEX Carbon is a rigid wheelchair made of carbon fiber that is fully adjustable. The entire chair weighs a mere 15.5 pounds, and the weight of the frame is just 9.2 pounds, making it the lightest chair in its class.
In addition to being one of the lightest, strongest materials on earth, carbon fiber provides vibration-dampening properties, thus the APEX Carbon combines high performance response with a smooth ride. Integrated into the frame are impact guards made with Top Grip, which provides extra grip for transfers and protects high-wear areas of the frame.
Additional features include a carbon fiber camber tube, laser-etched markings and built-in “bubble-level” gauges for precise adjustments and exact positioning. MSRP: $2,595 for APEX AI (aluminum frame) covered by Medicare. APEX Carbon is $4,295, a $1,700 upcharge, generally covered by the consumer.
ROHO AGILITY CARBON
The AGILITY CARBON back, by Permobil ROHO Seating and Positioning, is a rigid backrest made out of 12K flat-weave carbon fiber — thinner layers of carbon fiber that are closer together and compression-molded, resulting in a higher-strength and lighter material than standard carbon fiber. In addition, the tread is woven in a cool diamond-style pattern that matches the carbon components available on TiLite chairs. The back features a single clamp on each side that has angular adjustment disks that enable 15 degrees of angle adjustment, and the disks are precision notched to lock into place when tightened.
AGILITY CARBON backs are available in Minimum Contour and Mid-Contour (additional side trunk support) and heights of 10, 13 and 16 inches. MSRP for the Minimum Contour Back System is $985; the Mid-Contour System is $995. Covered by Medicare.
GlideWear products are designed by Tamarack Habilitation Technologies to help protect skin from pressure ulcers by reducing three significant damaging factors: moisture, heat, and friction (shear). GlideWear does this by incorporating a patented silk-like breathable fabric that helps keep skin cool and dry, and uses two-ply technology with a low coefficient of friction in their designs. The two-ply fabric protects vulnerable areas from sheer by easily sliding against itself.
GlideWear products include cushion and headrest covers, socks and undershorts. MSRP for men’s undershorts is $54.99. GlideWear was expected to introduce women’s undershorts shortly after press time.
The addition of the MX2+ PushTracker takes the popular SmartDrive power assist by Max Mobility to a new level of performance. The electronics are based around the PushTracker, a wrist-mounted Bluetooth control unit that combines SmartDrive control with an activity monitor.
To engage power to the MX2+ now requires a simple, double-tap of the wrist on which the PushTracker is being worn. This engages power, starting slow and steadily increasing in speed. A single tap of the wrist holds the desired speed, and another double-tap of the wrist disengages the power assist. PushTracker performance characteristics including tap sensitivity and swiftness of acceleration, and top speed can be programmed via Bluetooth from a Smartphone App.
The PushTracker display has a scroll that shows current time, number of pushes, battery level, coast time, and distance covered. Additional in-depth performance and distance information can be viewed on the SmartPhone App.
MSRP: $6,655. Covered by Medicare.
MX2 owners can upgrade, including the PushTracker, for $425.
RideWorks and Ride Custom Cushion 2
RideWorks by Ride Designs is a fast, easy and extremely accurate way to capture shapes for Ride Custom cushions and backs. Rather than having to take an impression by sitting in a foam or plaster simulator, RideWorks captures a wheelchair user’s shape by sitting on a bead-back and vacuum system coupled with RideWorks patent-pending Shape Capture Base. This is scanned with an Apple mobile device, like an iPad, and sent via internet to Ride Designs, where technicians utilize CAD procedures to create a perfect custom cushion and/or back. At press time Ride Designs was in the process of setting up certified Ride providers (usually a local DME supplier) around the country.
The Ride Designs Custom Cushion 2 is the new version of the Ride Custom Cushion. It offers all of the skin and postural support as the original but is made with a softer, lighter weight material. A 16 by 16-inch Custom Cushion 2 weighs 1.8 pounds, with adjustment options including CAM wedges that can accommodate weight change, tissue atrophy, and postural change. Also, contours and spacer mesh fabric promote airflow and help keep skin dry. The cushion can be grown in width and length, and the scanned shape is kept on file for future cushion needs.
MSRP is $1,590. Medicare approval pending at press time.
Although popular in Europe, Küschall wheelchair sales have been absent in the United States since the mid-2000s. Now Invacare has brought Küschall back to the U.S. market, introducing three rigid chair models, the Attract, the Champion and the Advance.
The Küschall Advance is especially eye-catching due to a unique carbon seat plate that provides rigidity to the chair. The front of the seat plate is solid, and the back blends into small carbon strips that can be adjusted via a Velcro strap for comfort and pressure distribution. Also unique to the Advance is the option of a quick-release removable front end that separates in front of the seat pan, enabling the chair frame to fit in extremely tight places, including small car trunks and/or in overhead bins of many airliners.
MSRP is $3,375. Medicare coverage pending at press time.
Twion Power Assist Wheels
Twion power assist wheels by Alber USA have quick-release axles, fit on almost all active wheelchairs and weigh 13 pounds per wheel — about the same weight as a wheelchair frame. Built-in lithium ion batteries provide a range of up to 12 miles on a charge. Top speed of standard (Basic Twion) wheels is 4 mph, and top speed of the upgrade wheels (Active) is 6 mph, making them the fastest and lightest power assist wheels available.
Control input comes from the push rims. The faster you push, the faster the power assist. Steering and braking is the same as a manual push rim, and Twion wheels assist in braking on ramps and going down hills. The wheels can also communicate with smartphones, enabling the user to custom tune performance characteristics, including acceleration and top speed, as well as read-out of parameters, including battery status, current speed, average speed, odometer and altimeter.
MSRP for Basic: $5,895; for Active: $6,396. Covered by Medicare.
The Q-Logic 3 is an advanced drive control system from Quantum Rehab. In addition to controlling the functions on the powerchair, the Q-Logic 3 can also operate a wide range of devices that use infrared remote controls, such as televisions, and serves as a Bluetooth computer mouse emulator. The Q-Logic 3 can be set up to run up to eight devices and has four programmable push button options for customized seating access.
Currently the Q-Logic 3 is only available on the Q6 Edge 2.0, which is usually equipped with iLevel seat elevation. Over the coming months it will be phased in on other Quantum chairs.
MSRP upcharge on the chair is $695 plus $425 for the controller harness; however, it is covered by Medicare, so it should be wrapped in to the cost of the chair.
Jay J3 HV Back
The HV back, by Sunrise Medical, is the cushion part of Jay J3 backs that has a unique feature — it helps warm you up when it is cold (as well as providing soothing warmth for a sore back) and helps cool you down when it is hot.
The HV back does this using a lithium ion battery that can be re-charged overnight to provide up to eight hours of continuous heat (the heating unit is tested to medical standards) and 12 hours of continuous cooling — via forced air ventilation through the cushion.
The HV back is only available on the Jay J3 backrest in Posterior (PA), Posterior Lateral (PL), and Posterior Deep (PD) models in mid-thoracic (15 inches), upper thoracic and shoulder-height backs.
At press time the HV back was not yet available for sale. Launch is scheduled for Spring 2017.
MSRP for the HV portion of the back is $795, and the J3 back MSRP ranges from $535-$795 depending on size and contour. Currently the HV back doesn’t have a Medicare code, but the company says it will be working on addressing this in the future.
These products represent a small sampling of the several hundreds of seating and mobility products featured at the ISS this year. For a complete listing of exhibitors, visit the ISS website (see resources).
• International Seating Symposium, www.iss.pitt.edu
• Apex Carbon, www.motioncomposites.com
• Ride Designs, www.ridedesigns.com
• GlideWear, glidewear.com/shop
• Jay J3 HV back, www.sunrisemedical.com
• Küschall, www.kuschallusa.com
• ROHO Agility Carbon, permobilus.com/products/seating-and-positioning-by-roho/back-system-products/agility-carbon-series
• SmartDrive MX2+ PushTracker, www.max-mobility.com
• Twion Power Assist Wheels, www.alber-usa.com
• Q-Logic 3 Controller, www.quantumrehab.com