Dani-Schirmer,-Spinergy-ZX-1Until recently, wheelers with limited arm movement and/or limited endurance had to choose between a manual chair and power chair.  This changed when Spinergy introduced the ZX-1, a unique power drive unit that turns a manual chair (rigid or folding) into a joystick-controlled power chair — in seconds.

Attaching the ZX-1 is simple. Just back your manual chair between the unit’s tubular armrests and press the “chair mount button” on the joystick. This engages a clamshell-like tube that robotically clamps around the chair’s camber tube (for folding chairs, the clamp goes around a ZX-1 add-on swing-away/quick-release camber tube) and lifts the rear wheels slightly off the ground. Voilà! — you now have a power chair that can cruise pavement, grass, gravel and slopes up to six degrees. Top speed is set at 3.5 mph, but can be reprogrammed to 5 mph after you become comfortable with operating the chair. The range is 5 miles with standard batteries and 9 miles with optional lithium batteries.

The ZX-1 weighs 82 pounds with standard batteries and 75 pounds with Lithium batteries. Quick release armrests make it easy for strong friends to load the compact unit into the trunk of a car or for airline employees to load onto a plane. However, for air-travel, Spinergy also offers a rugged, waterproof, TSA-approved ZX-1 travel case that can be made mobile with click-on casters.

Daniela Schirmer, a C5-6 quad, found the Spinergy ZX-1 to be so useful she went to work for Spinergy.

Daniela Schirmer, a C5-6 quad, found the Spinergy ZX-1 to be so useful she went to work for Spinergy.

Six years ago Daniela Schirmer, now 29, was faced with the power chair/manual chair dilemma when she sustained a C5-6 incomplete spinal cord injury. Her rehab facility suggested a power chair, but she went with a manual chair because she couldn’t afford a van and also wanted to be able to ride in friend’s cars. “I could get around the house in my manual chair, but didn’t have the endurance to push any kind of distance, so I got power assist wheels,” she says. “Then I moved to San Luis Obispo, Calif., to attend graduate school at Cal Polytechnic University. Going from class to class on the hilly campus while trying to hold onto a lap full of books wasn’t cutting it with power-assist wheels, especially on downhill sections.”

Schirmer had seen a ZX-1 prototype at Project Walk a year and a half before they went on sale to the public. “When I saw it, I had to have one, so I kept in contact with Spinergy and bought one as soon as they were available”

[in 2013]. Although Schirmer paid cash for her ZX-1 using a fundraising site called HelpHopeLive.org, the ZX-1 is covered under Medicare with the proper medical documentation.

“I love it because it gives me mobility and joystick operation,” says Schirmer. “I can use it when I want, or use my manual chair when I want. If I am going to go in a friend’s car, I can leave it behind, or have a friend put it into the trunk or back seat. It made college much easier, and I’ve now purchased a van so I take it with me all the time.” As an unexpected bonus, Schirmer’s enthusiasm for the ZX-1 landed her a job at Spinergy as a social media and marketing specialist.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $9,995 and minimum advertised price is $7,995.

• Spinergy ZX-1, www.spinergy.com/catalog/zx1_power_add_on.php