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Power play.

Power wheelchairs have gone through dramatic transformations over the last 5 - 10 years. Ugly, awkward machines of the past have been replaced by sleek high-tech models offering a number of benefits that long-time wheel-chair users may not appreciate right away. "Some of them are very reluctant to change," says Doe Cayting, vice president of Wheelchairs of Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.) "They've always done it this way. They don't like the fact that they're going to have to make some modifications to their vans. They don't like the looks [of equipment], and a variety of other issues."

A person making the switch from an old chair to a newer design will find many differences between the two, according to Cayting. Most noticeable initially is the change in the chair's appearance. New chairs are sleeker, with the electronics and power-drive system located on the chair's base. This power-based technology has led to the development of modular systems. The seat frame attaches to the base. Manufacturers can offer a number of different seating systems that will fit on the same base. This makes new chairs much easier to modify than older models.

Once seated, clients will notice other differences, Cayting says. Most new chairs, because of the electronics in the base, have a slightly higher floor-to-seat height than old chairs. This makes some people uncomfortable at first. The wheelchair base, because it is bulkier, often appears longer; in reality, it is usually the same size or shorter than in older chairs.

When clients start to drive the new chairs, they will find that the new ones handle differently. "Before, the electronics were very unsophisticated," Cayting says. "It was hard to do a lot of modifications to the system. You also had a belt-driven system and some problems with belt slippage. In wet weather, they didn't handle well."

Cayting often has to convince clients that technology's advantages can provide greater maneuverability and less-frequent maintenance checks. "With power-based technology, you're looking at direct drive, where there are no belts."

Power-based technology also means the center of gravity is lower. A new chair will be much more responsive, Cayting says. and offer a tighter turning radius. "It's like driving a clunker car, and all of a sudden you get in a real nice car. You ask yourself, 'Why did I live with that?' It's that much different," Cayting explains.

Excerpted from "Push to Power," by Cynthia S. Myers, Home Health Care Dealer/Supplier, May/June 1990, p. 79. Reprinted by permission.

Manufacturers

The following manufacturers responded to our request for information:

American Medical Technologies, Inc. 160 Lee Street Canton, GA 30114 (770) 479-1695 Lines: The AMT Choice series (elevator, tilt-in-space, reduced-shear recline), Excelsior SR Standing Chair

"American Medical Technologies, Inc., is dedicated to setting the standard that other manufacturers will have to follow in the future. Designed into every chair are quality features such as direct front-wheel drive, state-of-the-art electronics, premium grade actuators, mobility in several positions, and lifetime warranties on all frames. Each chair provides increased maneuverability and better stability than most chairs. Quality engineering and isolated electrical systems provide reliability and durability. AMT uses programmable Penny & Giles control devices that interface with alternative devices such as sip-n-puff, ASL, Rim, Peachtree, etc., as well as communication devices and environmental-control units."

DAMACO, Inc. 5105 Maureen Lane Moorpark, CA 93021 (800) 432-2434 / (805) 532-1832 Lines: Electro-Lite and Ovation

"DAMACO, Inc., portable power wheel-chairs are designed with the lightest modular components for disassembling and folding wheelchair frames in seconds. They fold to transport in cars, vans, or airplanes and change easily from power to free-wheeling. Affordable power wheel-chairs by DAMACO are built to last."

Everest & Jennings[R] 4203 Earth City Expressway Earth City, MO 63045 (800) 235-4661 / 542-3567 (fax) / (314) 569-3515 Models: Metro Power, Quest, MX, Sabre, Sabre ES, Sabre LTD, Lancer 2000

"Everest & Jennings combines the experience of a broad range of wheelchair users, clinicians, and dealers with the latest state-of-the-art technology resulting in the most advanced line of power chairs ever developed. `Precision control' is a trademark of all Everest & Jennings power wheelchairs, and programmable electronics gives users the ability to master the most difficult driving conditions. Everest & Jennings: Proof that great value comes from superior engineering."

Falcon Rehabilitation Products, Inc. 4404 East 60th Avenue Commerce City, CO 80022 (303) 287-6808 Line: HiRider

"The HiRider was specifically designed to help the user access existing environments. HiRider's ability to move from sitting to standing, maintaining mobility, plus 22 1/2-in width and 39-inch length, combined with front-wheel drive and no footrests allows access to 2-foot-wide doorways and 360[degrees] turns in a 42-inch space. The HiRider also has independent suspension on each of its front drive-wheels combined with a heavy steel plate the full length of the undercarriage. This allows the HiRider to maneuver well over rough outdoor terrain and drop over curbs or steps up to six inches with no damage to the chair."

Hoveround Corporation 2151 Whitfield Industrial Way Sarasota, FL 34243 (941) 739-6200 Line: Teknique[TM] Models: HD, GT, RT

"Like all Hoveround Products, the Teknnique[TM] is user-oriented. The optimal power seat lift raises up to allow easy transfers and access to higher surfaces. To make it easy to transport, the Teknique can be power lifted into the trunk of your car. Teknique's value, stability, and safety features make it the best choice in power-based mobility.

Invacare Corporation 899 Cleveland Street Elyria, OH 44035 (216) 329-6000 Models: Action P7E, Action Power 9000, Action Ranger II Basic, Action Ranger II (Std.), Action Arrow, Action Ranger X, Action Torque

"The performance of Invacare's power chairs can be adjusted to meet driver skills with pinpoint accuracy. Styling is clean, with numerous vibrant color choices."

Orthofab 2160 De Celles Quebec, Quebec G2C 1X8 Canada (418) 847-5225 Models: Orthofab VIP (articulating front swingarm or independent rear suspension), Fortress 770

"Orthofab manufactures and distributes power wheelchairs offering a superior level of performance. The acquisition of Fortress Scientifique du Quebec allows the company to offer a wider range of products. Besides complementary functional advantages, each model offers unique features designed to give the best mobility, comfort, and autonomy through shroud-protected power bases, modular seat systems. multi-adjustable components, personalized upholstery, and choice of alternate control devices. We at Orthofab believe that mobility and comfort are the essential elements in the performance of a power wheelchair."

Quickie Designs 2842 Business Park Avenue Fresno, CA 93727 (800) 456-8168 Models: Quickie P100 Quickie P110, Quickie P190, Quickie P200, Quickie P210, Quickie P320, and Zippie P500.

"We're proud of our line of power chairs. Quickie has focused its engineering sights on meeting the needs of children who require power chairs. The Zippie P500. which debuted in I n I. was designed to `grow' with its rider.

"The P110 is a foldable version of the P100. The P200's optimal center of gravity allows tight turns and flexible maneuverability. The P210 has an in-house designed and manufactured power recline system. The P320 combines features of the P300 and P200. The new P190 has a remote joystick and six adaptable switch locations. As with other Quickie power chairs, the P190 has direct-drive motor and a programmable electronic controller."

[Due to scheduling problems, Quickie was unable to submit complete ill information for all its power chairs. For details on its products, contact the company at the number above.]

TEFTEC Corporation 6929 Old Spring Branch Road Spring Branch, TX 78070-5104 ((210) 885-7588 / 885-7586 (fax) / teftec@teftec.com Line: [Omega]Trac[TM] Models: Front-wheel drive (standard), rear-wheel-drive (optional)

"The TEFTEC co-patentees of the OmegaTrac power wheelchair set their sights on designing the best power wheel-chair in the world. Featuring front-wheel-drive and stable tracking. plus true four-wheel suspension. the OmegaTrac boasts all-terrain capability, easy indoor maneuverability, long-range capability, and all-day sitting comfort. Accurate tracking and precise steering make the OmegaTrac exceptionally responsive when challenged in confined spaces. It is width-adjustable to accommodate large seating. The frame design allows users a choice of standard or the most popular seating systems."

21st Century Scientific, Inc. 4915 Industrial Way Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814 (208) 667-8800 Lines: Bounder, Sidekick Walk `n Ride Models: Bounder, Bounder Plus, Big Bounder, Sidekick Walk `n Ride

"The Bounder Power Wheelchair, manufactured by 21st Century Scientific, Inc., redefines high performance with speeds of more than 10 mph. The Bounder can be built to virtually any dimension and is available for users up to 700 lb. Power seating options include low-shear and shear-compensated power-recline systems, power tilt systems, seat elevators. and dual independent elevating legrests. Lights, horn, leg-bag emptier, fan, and many other options are available. The Sidekick Walk `n Ride is a light-weight power wheelchair for the mobility impaired. The patent-pending Wobulator control allows the Sidekick to function as a conventional power wheelchair. Forward and reverse switches under the push handles allow users to walk behind the chair as a power walker."

Global Research, Ltd. 5618 CR6 Hamilton, IN 46742 (219) 488-3664 Line: Starlight Models: Starlight I (pediatric), Starlight II (adult)

[Global Research was unable to submit complete information for all its power chairs. A description of their chairs appears in Innovations, this issue.]

Standards Time

In the past, it was not feasible to compare wheelchair characteristics and performance features because manufacturers used different methods to measure and test their chairs. This major problem motivated a group of dedicated people to produce standardized wheelchair measurements and test procedures.

Since March 1982, the ANSI/RESNA Wheelchair Standards Committee has worked to give consumers objective information about the characteristics and performance of wheelchairs. This 26-member committee includes rehabilitation engineers, wheelchair manufacturers, government-agency representatives - the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - and wheel-chair users and prescribers.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a large, nonprofit standards-setting organization that has sanctioned the committee's work since August 22, 1982. RESNA, an interdisciplinary organization that promotes assistive technology for people with disabilities, administers the committee's work. In addition, the committee has cooperated concurrently with other countries, through the International Standards Organization, to create international standards.

The 18 standards the committee developed are designed to produce objective information. Some of the test methods list suggested minimum-performance criteria for durability and safety reasons. The standards consist of test procedures that apply to all wheel-chairs - and some that apply only to power models. They are meant to help consumers make more educated selections and purchases as well as to help manufacturers make better products by allowing them to compare their test results with other companies' chairs.

The standards are voluntary; manufacturers are not required by law to use these test procedures. However, marketplace pressure will play a part in encouraging overall compliance with the standards.

VA, the single largest purchaser of wheelchairs in the United States, has adopted the standards by reference. This means that minimum performance criteria based upon results of the ANSI/RESNA wheelchair standards have replaced previous VA requirements, based on minimum performance of existing technology.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION * Consumers seeking additional information about these standards and how to interpret the results might consider reading A Guide to Wheelchair Selection - How to Use the ANSI/RESNA Wheelchair Standards to Buy a Wheelchair, by Peter Axelson, Jean Minkel, and Denise Chesney. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) published this book, which provides information about the ANSI/RESNA Wheelchair Standards in a nontechnical, easy-to-understand format. To obtain a copy, contact PVA Office Services, 801 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006. (800) 424-8200, ext. 609. The publication's price is $12.

* Another source of information is the Computer Aided Wheelchair Prescription System (CAWPS). Nigel Shapcott and a Highland Park VA Hospital team of investigators developed this computer program during a two-year project funded by the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development. CAWPS provides an effective, easy to use, affordable prescription aid to help wheelers, therapists, and vendors choose appropriate chairs based on the ANSI/RESNA wheelchair standards. For more information, contact Shapcott at (412) 647-1316.

* For a fact sheet on power wheelchairs, contact ABLEDATA, 8455 Colesville Road, Suite 935, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3319. (800) 227-0216 / (301) 588-9284 / 587-1967 (fax).

The Right Measure

In an effort to provide more objective information, PN once again asked manufacturers for the minimum information their technical product literature must disclose if they wish to comply with ANSI/RESNA standards. The items measured using ANSI/RESNA test methods are marked with an *.

We asked manufacturers to use these tests to obtain data for this survey. For wheelchair-performance tests, companies may have indicated "nty" not tested yet).

Caution: Results are based on the testing of one or more wheelchairs only and represent the maximum performance value without failure as tested on a new wheelchair. The performance you will obtain from a specific wheelchair may vary, depending on environmental conditions and your personal wheelchair-riding habits.

CATEGORY EXPLANATIONS & NOTES The chairs in this survey have been grouped into two sections, one for "standard" power chairs and the other for those that use power bases or that are specialty models. An * in the information below indicates that ANSI/RESNA test procedures are available. The comparison charts (following this article) include information for the following:

* Manufacturer/Model/Price Manufacturers disclose suggested or approximate retail prices. You can often find discounts by comparison-shopping at different dealers.

* Frame Material/Pieces "Frame material" is the tubing used to construct the chair. Wheelchairs in this survey are available in one or more of the following materials: titanium, stainless steel (usually type 304), 4130 or 6061-T6 aluminum, and mild or chromoly (chromium molybdenum) steel.

This category also tells how many pieces the wheelchair can be easily disassembled into without using tools.

Be aware that custom colors may add significantly to your order's processing time. Ask how nonstandard frame or upholstery colors affect the delivery date.

* Controller Indicates whether controllers have adjustments for speed, acceleration, and deceleration as well as which control features only dealers can change. Speed-limitation control allows you or the dealer to reduce the wheelchair's maximum speed. Acceleration-adjustment controls how quickly you can reach maximum speed. The deceleration adjustment controls how quickly the chair will stop when you release the joystick. The quicker the wheelchair stops, the higher the deceleration. For some users, a smooth motion is more important than a rapid response.

* Batteries Number and Size The size is indicated by a standardized group size number, such as 22NF, 24, 27, or U-1. Generally, the bigger the battery, the more energy it can store.

Type Refers to lead acid, gel cell, or other. Gel cells are preferred for air travel, since they are less likely to spill. No battery is completely spill proof, but gel cells are safer than others, and some airlines require them.

Removal, Installation Time Some manufacturers may have indicated the time required for removing and reinstalling the batteries, others have disclosed this information for the battery box. In either case, the time given should be how long it takes to do this without using tools.

* Cushion Standard features or optional accessories. Manufacturers might disclose one of the following cover options: corduroy (c), nylon (n), polypropylene (p), or sheepskin (s).

The chart also indicates whether the cushion is standard, optional, or not available. If one is available, its thickness and primary internal material (i.e. standard foam, T-foam, etc.) are listed.

* Seating & Positioning Upholstery and frame structure dimensons are often very different from the space available to sit in. With ANSI/RESNA test procedures, measurements represent the actual sitting space in the wheelchair (and are measured with the chair in a loaded condition). If manufacturers did not use these tests, the seat width and length may be only the dimensions of the upholstery and may include more space than users need or want.

A range of values for a particular wheelchair indicate that the feature is adjustable or available in several sizes.

* SEAT DEPTH/WIDTH

Shows the full seat-depth available (to the back surface or sling point of the back upholstery). Other measurement methods may only record the length of the seat upholstery. Variation between the two types of measurements can be more than two inches and could result in a wheelchair that is too long or too short. "Det" indicates that the seat is detachable; "horiz" following a number of inches describes the horizontal-adjustment range.

Represents the width of the loaded seat-support surface. The effective seat width may actually be wider, since more space may be available between the arm rest panels. armrest panel skirt, or main wheels of the chair.

* ANGLE

The angle relative to a flat, horizontal surface. A "positive" seat angle (as opposed to a "negative" one) means that the seat tilts to the rear.

* HEIGHT

The distance from the front edge of the seat to the floor. The measurement is made with the seat loaded.

* BACK HEIGHT

Measured along the center line of the chair from the top surface of the loaded seat upholstery.

* BACK ANGLE

A "positive" angle means that the seat back is tilted backward from vertical, in a "negative" angle, it is forward. A therapist can measure your flexibility and range of motion to determine the seat-to-back angle most appropriate for you. "Det" indicates that the back support is detachable.

Foot Supports

Standard and optional styles.

* Footrest-to-seat Distance

This distance indicates the leg length a given wheelchair can accommodate.

* Leg-to-seat-surface Angle

Indicates the lower-leg angle, relative to the upper leg. This angle can be critical, since many people do not have the flexibility or range of motion to attain certain leg-to-seat-surface angles.

Armrests

TYPE/FEATURES

Standard and optional styles and variations If the manufacturer says the chair passed the minimum performance criteria for static strength, the armrests have been tested. When used to lift the wheelchair armrests must either pull out easily or support the weight of the chair and its occupant. The same test is performed on the footrest.

* FRONT LOCATION OF ARMREST STRUCTURE

Indicates how far forward (at a certain height) the armrest extends from the backrest of the wheelchair. This tell how close you can get to a desk before it hits the armrests or Joystick.

* ARMREST-TO-SEAT DISTANCE

Discloses how high the armrest is above the loaded seat surface of the wheelchair. A range of values indicates that the armrest height is adjustable.

* Wheels

MAIN WHEEL DIAMETER AND SIZE

The standard rear wheel on a power wheelchair has an outside diameter of 20 inches.

WHEEL Locks

States availability. Wheel locks only prevent the wheels from turning, they will not prevent the wheelchair from sliding across a surface. Extension handles can increase the mechanical efficiency of the lock feature if you have limited arm strength and/or range of motion.

CASTERS/ANTITIP

Front-caster size is a matter of personal choice, depending on the amount of indoor and outdoor use you expect. Small, harder tires have less ability to roll over obstacles, such as cracks in the sidewalk. However, harder tires have less rolling resistance on smooth, level surfaces which makes the wheelchair consume less battery power. Larger casters can also interfere with your feet when the casters swivel during backing maneuvers Users who spend a lot of time outdoors doors prefer larger pneumatic or semi-pneumatic casters, those who use the chair primarily indoors on hard surfaces prefer smaller, harder casters

Antitip casters prevent the wheelchair from tipping to the rear. However, they also restrict mobility in outdoor environments particularly going up and down curbs and other transitions in height. Whether or not you use antitip casters, always practice new maneuvers with the assistance of a spotter behind or in front until you learn how to safely negotiate new environments.

*Overall Dimensions/

Largest Component

For a folding, wheelchair. the length and height will remain the same as in the folded position. and the width will increase. ANSI/RESNA test-procedure dimensions include the footrests, armrests, and all portions of the assembled chair. For a modular wheelchair the dimensions of the largest folded component (usually the power base) are disclosed.

* Weight/Heaviest Component

Includes the chair with standard armrests, legrests, wheels. and batteries and the weight of the heaviest component when the wheelchair is disassembled.

* Minimum Turnaround Width

Measures the minimum corridor width the wheelchair can turn around in during one turning maneuver. Tells how maneuverable the chair will be in tight indoor spaces. Under ANSI/RESNA procedures, the test is done with the footrest assemblies in place. If you can remove your footrest assemblies for maneuvering into a tight space, you may be able to get into smaller areas than test results indicate.

* Static and Impact Test

"Static loads" are those that are slowly applied a single time to the wheelchair to determine its strength. ANSI/RESNA procedures contain seven static and eight impact tests. Six of the impact tests have minimum-performance values.

* Fatigue Test

During ANSI/RESNA tests, the wheelchair is placed on a two-drum-power tester with a dummy sitting in the chair. The chair drives the tester with its own power. No minimum recommended performance value has yet been determined. The value disclosed in the survey does not mean the wheelchair failed at that point, only that the manufacturer discontinued the test after that number of cycles.

* Resistance to Flammability

Use of Federal Test Method 191A-Flame Resistance of Cloth: Vertical.

* Maximum Forward Speed

The wheelchair's maximum velocity is measured between two markers on a level surface. A range means the maximum speed is adjustable. If you only have to maneuver in indoor environments a lower maximum speed will probably be more desirable. Look at the wheelchair's other performance features and not just the maximum velocity.

* Maximum Obstacle Height

Perhaps you need to climb small curbs and steps and negotiate other environmental barriers. You may want a large-obstacle climbing ability outdoors for the occasional time that you must negotiate environmental barriers. During ANSI/RESNA procedures, the wheelchair attempts to climb obstacles of increasing heights. The manufacturer indicates whether the obstacle-climbing maneuver was carried out in the forward or reverse direction and whether it was done with or without a run-up distance. Practice such maneuvers with an assistant or spotter in case you start to tip or have other problems. I Antitip wheels may restrict the chairs obstacle-climbing or-descending ability.

* Tipping Angle Starting Uphill/

Ground Clearance

The wheelchair is loaded with a standardized test dummy, and full forward acceleration is applied to the joystick control while the chair faces uphill on the tilt platform. The platform angle at which the wheelchair does a wheelie and reaches its balance point is disclosed. A range of values means that the wheel-chairs speed or acceleration adjustments affect the dynamic tipping angle.

* Stopping Distance at Maximum Speed

Tells the minimum distance the wheel-chair travels after the brakes are applied while traveling forward at full speed. A range of values means the wheelchair has an adjustable deceleration feature. If you stop your wheelchair too quickly, you could lose your balance and fall forward, if you don't stop quickly enough, you could run into something or someone. The stopping distance lets you know how fast you can stop.

* Stopping Distance from Maximum

Speed Down a 5 Slope

At maximum speed when the wheelchair is traveling down a 5 slope. Comparing this stopping distance with the minimum stopping distance on a level surface indicates the degree of dynamic braking available for stopping on sloped surfaces. (The maximum velocity going down a 5 slope is usually greater than on a level surface.)

* Maximum Outdoor Range

If tested under ANSI/RESNA procedures, the wheelchair goes through a test circuit in which it is started from a full stop using maximum acceleration, driven a specified distance at maximum speed,. then stopped using maximum deceleration The maximum outdoor range of the chair is based on the capacity of the batteries on the chair. Look at what size and type of batteries are standard with the chair, since this will dramatically affect the maximum range. This value is similar to the miles per gallon (mpg) rating for city and highway driving for cars. The mileage you get will depend on your own wheelchair riding habits and the environment in which you are riding. If you make fast starts and stops and ride up and down hills all the time, your average outdoor range will be lower.

You may also want to know whether the wheelchair has a low-battery indicator to tell when you need to recharge your batteries.

* Effects of Rain and Temperature

A sample chair has been subjected to extreme high and low storage and operating temperatures and has performed properly afterwards. A shower test ensures that getting caught in the rain will not affect the performance of your chair.

* Electrical System/Safeguards/battery

Charger Requirements

The electrical system requirements are mostly pass/fail and are related to the safety of your power wheelchair. If the chair meets ANSI/RESNA requirements, it includes a diagram to assist in changing the batteries, the wires are standardized in their color coding, and you cannot get an electric shock by touching the frame of the chair. A variety of failure modes will not cause your wheelchair in a dangerous manner. You cannot operate the chair with the battery charger connected and hooking up battery cables backwards will not damage the controller.

If the wheelchair passes the ANSI/RESNA test procedure for safeguards it will not be easy for riders to get their fingers caught in various moving components of the wheelchair through casual contact.

If the battery charger on your wheel-chair meets ANSI/RESNA requirements, it can compensate for errors. For example if something were to get hooked up to your wheelchair backwards, you should know that neither you, the charger nor the wheelchair will be hurt.

* Nonpowered Push Force

If your wheelchair breaks down somewhere it is important that someone be able to push you out of a hazardous situation to a safe environment. This ANSI/RESNA procedure measures how much force is required for a person to push a nonworking chair.

Drive System: Gear/belt

Indicates whether the drive system uses belts or gears to connect the motors to the main drive wheels.

Warranty/Delivery Time

The parts and labor warranty period for a given wheelchair, and, if longer, the warranty information for the frame and cross frame. Delivery time is usually the number of working days from the time the factory receives the order until the chair is ready for shipping.

Direct- vs. Belt-drive

When motors are mounted directly to the drive wheels with only gears in between, the system is direct-drive. When belts connect motors and drive wheels, the system is belt-drive. Most wheelchairs are available only one way or the other.

Like rigid-frame manual wheelchairs, direct-drive systems have no "flex" or slack. Drive wheels respond to the actions of the motors. Belts, on the other hand, introduce a slight delay between the action of the motor and the wheel. Depending on your trunk balance you may find a belt-driven chairs delay provides a more comfortable ride. Unfortunately, belts can slip if they are not properly adjusted or are wet, and rear wheels will not always respond when you want them to.

You must look at the advantages of each system and make the best choice based on your needs and environment.

Power-chair Costs

Seating and mobility professionals can provide a thorough clinical evaluation of your needs, environment, size, and functional strengths and limitations. Rehab facilities may offer a variety of wheel-chairs to demonstrate the latest in design and components. A proper clinical evaluation and knowledge of components ma prevent costly mistakes. As the result of uninformed decisions many wheelchair users have chairs that do not fit or meet their functional needs.

In most cases, rehab centers will assemble and adjust your chair to fit you. These facilities and wheelchair suppliers offer training to help you learn your chairs performance characteristics.

If you feel you can bypass seating and mobility professionals because you have enough personal experience, you may be able to save money by purchasing your chair directly from a mail-order house or with cash through a local supplier. As with any mail-order purchase, you will forgo local support, including warranty repairs, assembly, setup, and adjustment to fit your body, abilities, and skills. Such purchases also will not include training, which you might need if your new chairs performance characteristics are different from your previous one.

Alternative Power

A November 1973 PN headline reads, "Unique motorized chair developed in California." The Para-Cycle reportedly traveled 200 miles on not arm or battery power, but a gallon of gasoline Its cruising speed was 15 mph in the halls and on the grounds of the Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

Dr. Glenn Reynolds, who became paraplegic after contracting polio, developed the three-wheeled vehicle. He and two engineers created a prototype of what they described as "a commercially successful means of transportation for paraplegics."

One of the engineers described the unit as an independent motor connected to a conventional wheelchair and powered by a small, light French-made made Solex 50-cc gasoline engine. The front end, with motor, was detachable and would fit in a car trunk.

According to Dr. Reynolds, "A person can drive it to the neighborhood grocery, detach the motor section, chain it to a post, and wheel the chair inside under his own power." Later, the user could reconnect it and drive home.

An Idea that went the way of the Edsel?

Peter Axelson received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1975, after a rock-climbing accident paralyzed him from the waist down. He graduated from Stanford University (Calif.) with a degree in mechanical engineering and design/ smart product design. In 1981, while attending Stanford, he founded Beneficial Designs, Inc. For more information about the ANSI/RESNA standards cited in this article, contact him at (408) 429-8447.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Paralyzed Veterans of America
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:information on how to purchase a power wheelchair
Author:Axelson, Peter
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Article Type:Directory
Date:Jan 1, 1997
Words:4952
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