Innovation can be defined as a process. In the world of mobility products, that aspect is vital to recognize because so many innovations that improve our mobility aren’t complete product revolutions, but evolutions. In this way, to maximize our mobility, it’s often important to hone in on the small innovations that make a huge difference. You might say that innovation is often about taking a proven technology and … yes … improving upon it.
Indeed, when we look at the latest round of mobility innovations, they’re not cataclysmic shifts. However, they’re each an incremental improvement that can dramatically enhance one’s life. Sometimes the most impactful innovations really are found in the finer details.
A Folder that Tricks the Eye
If you saw the new Quickie Xenon 2 FF roll by, you’d swear it was of the ever-popular Q7 rigid series — and it is. Well, sort of. While the Xenon 2 FF carries the 7000-series aluminum frame and caster housings of the Q7, there’s a secret distinction hidden under the seat: it folds.
Rather than using a box frame design, the Xenon 2 FF draws on a rigid lineage, from the mono-tube side frames to the seemingly one-piece footplate, all weighing in at 19.4 pounds. Yet, with a tug, it folds. It’s a rigid ultralight without the rigid limitations, increasing transportability.
The Xenon 2 comes in three versions: the FF mono-tube, the Hybrid dual-tube (300-pound capacity) and the SA (with swing-away leg rests). Many designers over the decades have tried to create a “folding rigid,” but the Xenon 2 series is among the most successful designs.
Expanded Positioning Possibilities
Permobil’s most emblematic feature, rightfully, is its Corpus seating system. After all, it remains the original ergonomic power chair seating system, designed by renowned Swedish ergonomist, Bengt Engstrom, over two decades ago.
However, as revered as Corpus seating remains, Permobil realized that it wasn’t an end-all solution. While Corpus seating has some adjustability, it’s an all-encompassing seating system that, by its nature, limits adaptability. Sometimes this prevented power chair users with custom seating needs from using a Permobil.
But now, the newest model in the Permobil lineup, the M1, allows the adaptation of highly-custom seating. Looking at the M1, you might have difficulty telling it apart from the best-selling Permobil M3 (or M300) mid-wheel power chair. And that’s by design. While there are a few differences between the M1 and M3 power bases — 5 mph versus 6 mph, for example — the biggest difference is in the seating. The M1 forgoes Corpus seating for a highly-adaptable system that accepts virtually all aftermarket seating components.
The M1’s seating starts with 1-inch tubular back canes, to which aftermarket backs — from Jay to ROHO to ADI — mount. Additionally, a custom molded back can be fitted. From there, the seat features a universal track system for mounting positioning components, such as thigh guides, knee adductors, positioning belts and so on. Of course, all cushions are compatible, and Permobil has their well-proven flip-back arms. The seating is available in static or tilt-only versions, so multiple power functions, such as lift and recline, are unavailable (although there is a manual recline option).
With seat sizes from 14-by-14 to 22-by-22-inch, the M1’s seating covers a wide range of chair users — especially when its versatile custom seating is figured in.
Smoothing out the Bumps
Quantum’s Edge series has provided an industry-leading power chair since its introduction eight years ago. While the unmistakable “edge” aesthetics remain, it’s now on the third generation, the Edge 3.
The biggest distinction of the Edge 3 is its use of automotive-grade suspension components, known as Smooth Ride Suspension technology. SRS uses coil-over shocks with dampening to improve both comfort and performance.
The real key to the Edge 3 and SRS technology is in the dampening. Power chairs have long used spring suspension, and while it has worked, its downfall has been a somewhat bouncy ride. By contrast, adding dampening smooths and equalizes the movement of components, such as drive wheels and caster arms. Rather than “chattering” over lumps and bumps, the Edge 3 with SRS has more of a gliding effect over rough spots.
A common understanding of suspension is that it’s for comfort. However, in the power chair world, suspension is equally vital for reducing spasticity and aiding those who require the smoothest ride characteristics and those who drive with specialty controls.
Wheels for the Wilderness
Make no mistake, high-floatation, knobby tires make a big difference when propelling an ultralight wheelchair through the rough stuff. However, there has long been a trade off. While off-road tires offer all-terrain advantages, they have traditionally been mounted on heavy, wire-spoke wheels. To reduce the strain of pushing with extra rotational weight, Spinergy has developed its Outdoor Wheel Package, which offers off-road performance on a lightweight wheel set.
The Outdoor Wheel Package consists of Spinergy’s Light Extreme “LX” rims, with PBO (polyphenylene bensobisoxazole) fiber spokes, paired with an anodized hand rim and Kenda Nevegal mountain bike tire. The result is a gnarly all-terrain wheel that’s all but indestructible and exceptionally lightweight. The Spinergy Outdoor Wheel Package comes in 22, 24, and 25-inch sizes. The key is to size down, as the large tires create a larger total wheel diameter than high-pressure sizing dictates (for example, a 22-inch Outdoor Wheel is equivalent to a 24-inch standard wheel).
The Spinergy Outdoor Wheel Package comes with quick-release axles, so the wheels can be easily swapped as needed with everyday wheels. If you want your chair light and tough, these wheels are up to the task.
Editor: NM discloses author-product relationships when appropriate. Accordingly, Mark E. Smith is the general manager of public relations for Pride Mobility/Quantum Rehab.