The 34th International Seating Symposium returned to Vancouver, British Columbia, March 6-9, offering a glimpse of the latest and greatest and what is to come in the seating and mobility field. With close to 100 educational sessions and workshops covering a wide spectrum of mobility-related disability subjects, ISS is a must-attend event for physical and occupational therapists as well as seating and mobility technology providers.
But the real draw for many is the exhibit hall — think the ultimate Abilities Expo — where manufacturers showcase their newest products and technology. This year, 75 exhibitors filled the hall, giving attendees a hands-on opportunity to evaluate the coolest adaptive equipment and new technology, from manual and power chairs, to cushions, accessories and more. Here is a look at some of the products that stood out this year.
Introduced to the U.S. market in March 2017, iShear provides clinicians a way to identify, quantify and reduce shear with a system that looks similar to a pressure mapping device. An iShear mat is placed under the wheelchair cushion and it measures shear forces, which are shown in real time on a laptop or tablet.
Minimizing shear is vital for avoiding pressure sores because shear can cause tears in tiny blood vessels deep in the tissues. This can cause an injury that manifests as a major skin ulcer, which often erupts with no sign or visible warning.
The iShear system enables clinicians to adjust seating and positioning to minimize shear and lets wheelchair users and/or caregivers view shear forces on a screen, as they are happening. They can also see how changes in posture and movements can reduce shear, hopefully devising ways to keep it to a minimum.
At press time, iShear is in use at five rehab centers and by 10 seating professionals in the U.S. It is an item you may want to ask about prior to your next seating eval. MSRP of the system is $2,365.
Ride Designs Java and Custom 2 Cushion
When it comes to enemies of skin integrity, add heat and moisture to pressure and shear. Ride Designs, known for outstanding skin protection, has taken the successful ventilation channel from its flagship cushion, the Java, and included it as an option to the Ride Custom Cushion 2. In both cushions, the ventilation channel provides even more airflow to Ride’s breathable spacer fabric cover, and the combination helps keep skin dry and cool in any climate.
MSRP for Ride Custom Cushion 2 is $1,590 and is covered under Medicare. The ventilation channel is a $147 option that can be bundled in Medicare pricing.
Ride Designs, ridedesigns.com
Stealth Products is creating an environment for healthier skin by reducing heat and moisture using CoolCore, a unique, patented material, in the covers of its line of cushions, which range from contoured foam to gel. CoolCore’s breathable fabric helps remove heat and moisture by wicking away moisture and hastening evaporation to help keep the skin cool and dry.
MSRP varies by cushion — from $375 to $500 — and they are covered under Medicare.
Stealth Products Cushions, stealthproducts.com/522/
Skin protection is vital, especially when we are out of our chairs. The AllRounder 02 cushion made by Vicair, a company in the Netherlands, is perfect for this because it acts like a protective shoe for your butt.
Like the original AllRounder, the 02 has five chambers filled with hundreds of “smart cells” — tiny air packages that distribute pressure. Improvements to the 02 include leg and waist straps made of tough, heavy-duty material with super strong buckles. The outer shell is also made from durable material, and it’s waterproof and washable.
Available in small, medium and large sizes, the AllRounder 02 is great for activities ranging from playing on the floor with your dog or kids, to camping, sailing, or any activity where you aren’t in your chair.
MSRP is $268, plus shipping from the Netherlands.
Vicair AllRounder 02, vicair.com/product-detail/vicair-allrounder-o2
Matrx MX2 Back
Matrx MX2 backs, by Invacare subsidiary Motion Concepts, are made of carbon fiber and are ultra-lightweight. They provide the postural support of a rigid back and are engineered to employ carbon fiber’s ability to enable subtle flex and dampening, which translates to a smooth ride. In addition, the shell has cutouts for extra breathability. The backs match chair widths from 14 to 18 inches and are available in heights of 16, 12, 9 and 6 inches — likely the shortest commercially available carbon fiber back. Mounting options include fixed or quick-release, and mounting can be adjusted in terms of height, depth and angle.
MSRP is $795-$940 depending on hardware, and it’s covered by Medicare.
Motion Concepts, motionconcepts.com
NAVIONE Power Assist Wheels
Yamaha’s NAVIONE power assist wheels fit most manual wheelchairs and come as a package that consists of two quick-release wheels and a battery pack that is mounted under the chair. Control input comes from the push rims, and pushing on the rims engages power assist. NAVIONE’s unique features include “wheel-to-wheel communication,” meaning the wheels can be programmed to adapt for wheelers that have uneven arm strength. The system also features rollback prevention, downhill speed control, extra power on uphill sections and stability control to keep the wheelchair tracking straight on off-camber surfaces and side slopes. The total weight of the system is 34 pounds, and battery weight is approximately 6 pounds. Battery range is 12.5 miles for nickel batteries and 22 miles for lithium batteries, and speed is programmable up to 4 mph.
MSRP was unavailable at press time but should be on Yamaha’s website by June 1. Medicare coverage is pending; approval is expected by June 1.
Yahama NAVIONE, yamahanavi.com
Catalyst 5Vx Folding Chair
Ki Mobility has redesigned its Catalyst 5Vx folding wheelchair. It features double cross braces for a rigid ride, an axle plate that gives 2 inches of center-of-gravity adjustment in half-inch increments, 5 inches of rear seat height (seat angle) adjustment, and 4 degrees of camber adjustment.
Made of 7000 series aluminum, the Catalyst 5Vx weighs 24 pounds and has a transport weight of 13.9 pounds with the rear wheels unattached. It comes in seat widths from 14 to 22 inches and depths of 14 to 20 inches.
Among its very cool options are a single anti-tip that easily swings out of the way, and side guards made from foam padded aluminum or carbon fiber. Another option are its “transit wheels” — roller blade wheels that extend below the rear frame, making the chair at least 7 inches narrower for navigating extreme tight spaces and doorways when the rear wheels are removed.
MSRP is $1,895 and it’s covered by Medicare.
Ki Mobility, kimobility.com
Quickie 7 Series
Although they have been available for a few years, the Quickie 7 series rigid chairs by Sunrise Medical caught our eye. Each 7-series frame is custom designed and built for the end user from 7000 Series aerospace aluminum that is heat treated to increase strength and enable using thinner, lighter weight tubing. This makes it 18 percent stronger than previous designs and creates a chair that weighs a mere 18.89 pounds, with a transport weight of 11.1 pounds for the 7R. Experienced wheelers who know their exact dimensions can order the non-adjustable, fixed-back 7RS that drops the weight by 1.1 pounds. Available in widths from 12 to 20 inches.
Among the cool options is the Freestyle Backrest, a center mounted rigid backrest that enables a wider range of motion. The 7R MSRP is $2,495, the 7RS MSRP is $2,795, and both are covered by Medicare.
Sunrise Medical, sunrisemedical.com
Instead of taking an adult-sized chair and making it smaller, TiLite by Permobil designed its newest chair for kids, the Pilot, from the ground up. Among cool features are front caster arms that enable the chair to grow in width and depth as its user grows, and also allow better centering over the rear wheels for pushing. The Pilot employs carbon fiber seating and frame components to keep it lightweight — its transport weight is 11 pounds. It comes in widths of 8 to 14 inches and depths of 9 to 15 inches. The official launch, including website info, will be in mid-2018.
MSRP is approximately $2,800, and it’s covered by Medicare.
The Veloce is a relatively new addition to Motion Composites’ line of fully adjustable carbon fiber wheelchairs. The total weight of the Veloce is 17.6 pounds and transport weight, with the rear wheels removed, is 11 pounds, making it one of the lightest folding wheelchairs around.
The Veloce is a folding chair with a minimalist look, energy efficient ride and quick responsiveness of a rigid chair. That’s in part possible thanks to the oval shaped cross tubes and oversized pivot axles. Made of T700 high-modulus carbon fiber, the Veloce is strong and nimble, yet dampens minor vibration in a way that is unique to carbon fiber, resulting in a smooth, quiet ride.
Additional standard features include single sided caster forks, rubberized hand grips for easier transfers, integrated impact guards in high wear areas, and a one-piece footrest that folds up as the frame is folded.
Available in widths from 14 to 20 inches and depths of 14 to 20 inches, the MSRP is $4,795, and it’s covered by Medicare.
Motion Composites, motioncomposites.com
Kinova Robotic Arm
Kinova offers a robotic arm with a three-fingered hand that greatly increases independence for people with limited or no hand or arm function. The device mounts to a power chair and is controlled by the wheelchair system — joystick, head control, sip-and-puff or any other type of controller.
The robotic arm provides greater daily independence and less dependence on caregivers by enabling a user to accomplish a wide array of daily living tasks. These range from scratching one’s nose or adjusting glasses to eating and drinking, picking things up, pushing buttons for doors or elevators, to holding a phone or camera.
MSRP is $82,300. Mark Clark, Kinova regional account manager, explained it could be covered under Medicare but nobody has tried it yet. Clark also said it has been covered under private insurances and by the VA.
Certain products, like ultralight-weight manual chairs [CMS K0005] require very specific letters of justification, and clients should discuss the amount Medicare allows vs. the actual price of the chair including desired options with their provider prior to ordering. Medicaid coverage is less certain, as coverage is up to each state, and they are often on extremely tight budgets.
Editor: New Mobility’s policy is to disclose author-product relationships when appropriate. Accordingly, Bob Vogel recently became an ambassador for Motion Composites. He received an Apex wheelchair in exchange for feedback and promotion of the chair on various social media platforms; he will also be a paid representative of Motion Composites at up to three disability expos. The Apex is not the wheelchair described in this article.