Stairclimbing Wheelchairs


For a wheelchair user, there are very few every day things that are more complex than mastering stairs.  Accessing any area that requires going up or down stairs is almost an absolute no go area.  Of course, more and more public buildings are now very wheelchair friendly, providing ramps and platforms, but within the home, wheelchair users are still reliant on the help of others.  And if those who are in a wheelchair visit their friends or family, they may have further issues.  In fact, it has been reported that wheelchair users feel socially isolated as they are unable to attend their friends’ properties and don’t feel they can expect their friends to continuously come to their homes.

Johnson & Johnson Stairclimbing Wheelchairs

Inventing a wheelchair that can climb stairs sounded like science fiction until a few years ago, when Johnson & Johnson did just that.  The iBOT Mobility System was invented to allow wheelchairs to literally climb stairs, allowing wheelchair users to no longer feel socially isolated and view every set of stairs or steps as an equivalent to a large mountain.

At present, the iBOT Mobility System has only been approved in the United States, but it is likely that it will be released onto the European market considerably quickly.  There are some things to take into consideration however:

  • There are weight restrictions on the stairclimbing wheelchairs, meaning that the user and any items they have on them cannot way more than 250 pounds (113 kilograms) and can weigh no less than 75 pounds (34 kilograms).  Furthermore, the weight allocated to items that a wheelchair user carries on their person cannot exceed 20 pounds (9 kilograms).
  • Wheelchair users must have reasonable manual dexterity, in order to be able to use a push type telephone or control as well as being able to use a joystick to use the system itself.
  • Wheelchair users must be comfortable with bending their knees and so they are in a full sitting position.  Of course, for those who have had leg amputations, this does not entirely apply, although they do need to be able to bend the hip.  When using stairclimbing wheelchairs, they must not be in a reclining position, so users must be able to comfortably sit upright.
  • For safety reasons, wheelchair users cannot suffer from illnesses that cause them to lose consciousness or have fits, and have to have been free of fits or seizures for at least three months.  Only health care professionals would be able to advise you as to whether you can make an exception to this rule.
  • Stairclimbing wheelchairs are not able to fit respiratory devices such as oxygen tanks onto them, nor can they recline.  Hence, this does put restrictions on certain wheelchair users.
  • Certain medical conditions make it impossible to use stairclimbing wheelchairs, such as osteogenesis imperfect, severe osteoporosis or certain cancers such as metastatic bone cancer.  This is because fracturing the bones in these types of illnesses is very likely under minimum amounts of pressure.
It is hoped that these stairclimbing wheelchairs will be available in the United Kingdom very shortly, as they have made a tremendous difference in the lives of wheelchair users in the United States.

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