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Mobility products for home, the road and off the beaten path
Monday September 3, 2012

(Photo courtesy of Mobility Lifter)


Deep sand, grass, rutted dirt trails, gravel and even thick carpet can be tough for a person to negotiate with a wheelchair, and tiring for his or her shoulders.

This frustration drove Pat Dougherty and his twin brother, Mike, both engineers, to design the FreeWheel wheelchair attachment (, according to spokeswoman Cindy Krieg. Pat, a patient with C6/7 partial quadriplegia with a head injury, wanted to play with his children outside, but the extra effort required to move his chair was making his shoulders pop, Krieg said. By taking the front casters — which have benefits on many indoor surfaces — out of the equation and adding a larger wheel in front, the brothers made the wheelchair more stable and able to glide across rough terrain.

"He and Mike went through a whole variety of designs," Krieg said. "Finally, they came up with the design and spent about two years making them in the garage." The two made enough for 100 people worldwide to test, and the feedback helped make the attachment lighter, easier to use and adaptable to different footrests, she said.

Liftkar PT
(Photo courtesy of Mobility Lifter)
"As youíre wheeling, momentum is your friend. Once you push with a regular chair, your hands have to immediately go back for the next push," she said. With the longer wheelbase provided by the FreeWheel, the chair can glide farther for each push, she said. "We have actually had people who were in a power chair, but have gone back to a manual chair. Because with the FreeWheel, they now have the ability to push again."

The FreeWheel costs $499, with $30 shipping.

Ginny Paleg, PT, MPT, DScPT, who works mostly with children who have cerebral palsy, said she pays close attention to mobility trends during her travels. There is a new push, especially in Europe, to make sure people who have disabilities can participate as fully as possible, Paleg said. She said this includes people who are classified as a level 4 or 5 on the gross motor function classification system. "In the past, those arenít the people we thought of when we thought about mobility, and they were getting left behind," she said. "Activity is the gateway drug for participation. Physical fitness isnít just for me and you, itís also for the folks in comas, itís for the folks who have locked-in syndrome, itís for the folks who [can only] blink."

(Photo courtesy of FreeWheel)
Paleg likes a custom-designed footplate to go with the Superstand or Superstand Youth made by California-based Prime Engineering. Paleg said several recent studies show standing has benefits such as improving gait, preventing contractures and also helping to keep the childís hips from dislocating. But, she said, how the child stands is very important. "When you stand, you need to be in abduction," Paleg said.

Bruce Boegel, CFO, Prime Engineering, said the Superstand allows prone, supine and upright positions. The footplate allows for standing in 30-degree abduction. Each stand has at least a 20-inch growth range and is hand adjustable, he said. "The whole idea is to get you up, getting that pressure off your backside, thatís what maintains healthy skin." The price is $2,495.

Photo courtesy of FreeWheel
Prime also makes the KidWalk, a dynamic mobility device. KidWalkís large wheels (20 or 24 inches, depending on size) are centered on the childís hips. "If the child just mildly rotates his upper body, just rotates his shoulders, thatís going to be enough movement to get that unit to move," Boegel said. "It has a little bit of springiness, so it allows them to dip. Itís like a pendulum." The pendulum allows for the natural sway and dipping that occurs during walking, and also absorbs fidgeting or wobbling, he said. It costs in the neighborhood of $2,800.

Caring for her mom gave Jeanine Carroccio the idea to start Downers Grove, Ill.-based Mobility Lifter ( to distribute the Liftkar PT. The portable, attendant-operated stair-climber is made by SANO Transportgerate GmbH in Austria. The Liftkar PT comes in three different versions, one that allows a manual wheelchair to be rolled onto the deviceís platforms, another that comes with an integrated seat and a third that uses adaptors to clip onto a chair with quick-release wheels, Carroccio said. Every model is battery-powered, with a full charge lasting for 300 to 500 stairs, and can lift a maximum of 352 pounds, she said. "We go out to their homes and train three people how to use it. We make sure they know how to use it in their own house." The device costs $7,600 to $8,000.

Toyota Rampvan Xi
(Photo courtesy of BraunAbility Inc.)
Bruno Independent Living Aidsí new Chariot lift allows a person to transport a powerchair or scooter with a smaller car. "A lot of people are comfortable in their Corolla or Impala; they donít want a larger vehicle," said Mike Krawczyk, marketing manager for Bruno. The Chariot uses a fixed hitch to connect with the car. The MSRP is about $3,000. Bruno also recently introduced the Valet line of turning powered transfer seats for large SUVs or CUVs, selling for $3,000 to $8,000.

The Toyota Rampvan Xi is BraunAbility Inc.ís first adaptive van with a ramp that stows beneath the floor. According to Troy Schultz, product manager, customers enjoy the flexibility. "I think one of the driving forces for someone who wants an in-floor is the ability to just open the door, and if someone wanted to not use the conversion, they can step in and out." •

Bonnie Benton is a copy editor.

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Monday September 3, 2012
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