Approximately 1.7 million Americans use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility, and most (90%) use manual wheelchairs rather than powered devices. Currently, manual wheelchairs provide the user with mobility in a seated position; however, there are many compelling reasons for enabling wheelchair users to stand.
Functional benefits include a raised and enlarged workspace, allowing access to kitchen counters and appliances; easy access to overhead cabinets or grocery store shelves; and increased independence, potentially enhancing employment and leisure opportunities.
Physical benefits include a reduced risk of osteoporosis, muscle spasticity, and contractures; improved cardiovascular, digestive, and renal function; and relief or prevention of pressure sores.
Perhaps equally important are the psychological benefits of standing—being able to interact with others eye-to-eye, instead of always having to look up at everyone.
While some electric wheelchairs allow users to stand when stationary or moving, and powered mobile platforms enable people to move around in a standing position (but do not allow the person to sit), these powered devices also tend to be expensive, big, and heavy.
Some manual wheelchairs standing in place to perform a task. However, the user must return to a sitting position whenever they want to move the chair, which is time consuming and inconvenient.
Manual Wheelchair That Enables Seated and Standing Mobility
We have designed a manual wheelchair that allows users the ability to be mobile in either a seated or standing position or in the full range of positions in between. The wheelchair has a unique ergonomic hand drive mechanism designed to minimize the risk of shoulder injury associated with propelling a manual wheelchair. A lap belt and knee restraint block to secure users to the device at all times, and anti-tip wheels deploy during standing modes.
We have used extensive input from users, clinicians, and our engineers to develop an advanced prototype of the wheelchair, and we are working on developing a folding version. Final designs will include input from potential commercial partners, to improve manufacturability and reduce cost.
Potential users for this device comprise manual wheelchair users with a variety of mobility-limiting conditions, such as spinal cord injury, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.
The contents of this webpage were developed under grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant numbers 90RE5014 (2013-2018) and 90REGE0003 (2018-2023). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this webpage do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.