Published 3/05, Copyright 2005, WheelchairJunkie.com
Sure, I was impressed running into the actor, Ed Begley, Jr., some fifteen years ago at the Los Angeles
Convention Center during a wheelchair show that shared the complex with some sort of political convention.
After all, Ed is impressive as a larger-than-life guy, a giant of a man, with his trademark wire-rimmed
glasses and shimmering blonde hair. But, as Ed asked me about my own chair, I was distracted by a head
floating across the top of the crowd, pointing out the phenomena to Ed. And, if Ed's frowned, questioning
brow didn't shriek of bewilderment when I said, "Hey, look at that floating head," he, too, was equally
fascinated, realizing that there truly was a floating head, skimming across the middle of the crowd.
"It's a guy driving a powerchair stander," I said, dispelling the mystery. "But, it sure does
look like a floating head above the crowd, doesn't it?"
Wheelchair standers are a unique segment
of mobility products. After all, by nature, a wheelchair is intended for those sitting down. As a result,
wheelchair standers are a concept that inevitably gains the attention of most.
From a technical
side, standers begin with the user in a seated position, capturing the front of the knees and the chest,
then the backrest and seat move upward and forward, effectively unfolding vertically, securing the user
in the standing position. On manual wheelchair standers, the stander action is accomplished with mechanical
struts, and powerchairs use power actuators. Additionally, most powerchair standers allow the user to
recline, elevate the legrests, then tilt to a standing position - this can be helpful to those needing
to incline in stages rather than directly transitioning from sitting to standing.
standing has many benefits. Pressure relief and improved circulation are of great benefits to those
who stand. However, among the foremost benefits is to the bladder, dramatically reducing the effects
of constriction when seated, and fostering full emptying.
Toward personal benefits, wheelchair
standers can bring positive functional, social, and psychological influences to a user's life. In the
home, a stander may assist independent living skills ranging from cooking to laundry. In social settings,
a stander may allow increased access ranging from reaching tall eatery tables to seeing over the crowd
at concerts. And, in the workplace, a stander can increase environmental access ranging from reaching
a chalkboard as a teacher to reaching a machine as an engineer. In all, however, standers may make some
users feel more at ease in daily encounters, able to assume an upright stature, looking others in the
Despite so many benefits, standers aren't suited for everyone. In a RESNA survey of wheelchair
stander users, 77% were paraplegics, and 21% were quadriplegics, mirroring the fact that higher-level
spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, and other involved disabilities are not as well suited for standing
as lower-level disabilities. Specifically, as also referenced by Resna's survey, 10% of users experience
fainting, headaches, and nausea. In all applications, nonetheless, one should consult with his or her
therapist and doctor before ordering a wheelchair stander.
With powerchair standers costing upwards
of $25,000 for complete powerchair packages, they are very expensive and exceptionally difficult to fund
via most insurance. There have been successful appeals based on bladder and circulatory medical necessity
for a wheelchair stander, but such instances are very rare, especially in the realm of governmental insurance,
which typically only funds a single function of tilt or recline, with a stander not deemed as such a
necessity for pressure relief.
While not physically or economically obtainable for many, powerchair
standers make tremendous physical, functional, and social enhancements in appropriate users' lives.
As Ed Begley, Jr. and I witnessed first hand, not only can wheelchair standers place you at eye level
with others, but they can also help you soar above the crowd.