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VA research in action

A standing wheelchair that also moves

September 11, 2020


A Veteran using the stand-up wheelchair. (Photo by Billie Slater)

Standing wheelchairs allow their users to raise the chair from a seated to a standing position. The standing position allows users to interact with other people and objects at eye level. Early standing wheelchairs, however, allowed people to stand but not to move—until a team from the Minneapolis VA Health Care System added a chain drive system enabling users to push the chair while standing as if they were seated.

Dr. Gary Goldish and biomedical engineer Dr. Andrew Hanson of the Minneapolis facility took an existing standing wheelchair and consulted engineers and Veterans to make design changes. They developed a way for the chair’s push rim to move up so it can be accessed in the standing position, in much the same way it is while sitting.

“We (added) a drive wheel that separated the push rim from the tire,” Goldish told CBS News. This adaptation transfers weight between the front and back of the chair faster, improving both stability and mobility. The transformation takes just a few clicks. Patients who use the chair are better able to reach items, report an improved sense of well-being, and have a decreased likelihood of developing pressure sores. No external power source is needed.

The wheelchair was developed with a grant from Paralyzed Veterans of America and was patented by Goldish. LEVO USA is currently manufacturing the chair under VA license for Veterans and others who would benefit from it. “Every Veteran who has suffered paralysis should have this experience,” wrote Sherman Gillums, Jr., a retired Marine Corps officer, in Military Times.

Principal investigator: Dr. Gary Goldish, Minneapolis VA Health Care System

Selected publications:

Innovative lab at Minneapolis VA is developing technology to help disabled Veterans, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sept. 14, 2019

A vet’s perspective on ‘standing up’ for the first time in years. Military Times, Jan. 28, 2019

VA doctor engineers improved standing wheelchair, CBS News, Jan. 17, 2015

A drive system to add standing mobility to a manual standing wheelchair, Nickel E, Hansen A, Pearlman J, Goldish G. Assist Technol. Winter 2016;28(4):218-224.

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