According to the National Institutes of Health, 2.2 million people in the U.S. depend on a wheelchair for day-to-day tasks and mobility. By far the large majority (90%) of wheelchair users have manual wheelchairs. Most wheelchair users are not able to stand independently and their chairs don’t help. Standing, however, allows greater access to counters, shelves, or other places people can’t reach while sitting. The ability to stand up and remain standing, even when moving,  can help the person be and feel more independent than sitting all the time. In addition, standing reduces the risk of osteoporosis, muscle contractures and spasticity, and can improve cardiovascular, renal, and digestive functions.

The Center for Bionic Medicine (CBM) at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is developing and near commercialization of a manual standing wheelchair. The Center’s overall goal is to improve the function and quality of life for individuals with amputation and other physical disabilities. Users can drive the wheelchair while either sitting or standing with a hand drive mechanism on each side. If you picture someone in a wheelchair moving by partially grasping and pushing the wheels forward or backward, it’s the same type of motion but on an endless-loop covered chain assembly. Move a lever on each side and the same mechanism switches the wheelchair from sitting to standing position. The wheelchair has a lap belt and a knee restraint block to protect against falls.

We have covered powered wheelchairs with standing features in the past. Electric sit/stand wheelchairs are expensive and because of the batteries required they are large and heavy. There are other manual wheelchairs that let the user stand for conversation or to perform a task, but the current models on the market require the users to sit down to move. The CBM chair is designed for use by anyone with mobility-limiting disabilities.