Accessibility, Life Care Plan, Technology

New Self-Balancing Wheelchair Elevates Its User…Literally

 September 19, 2018

By  Deborah L Weiner Katz, OTR/L, CCM, CLCP

The all-electric Scalevo wheelchair was described as a Segway crossed with a tank. It was created by a group of ten art and tech students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Zurich University of the Arts. Its signature look and function was based on wheels used for cruising and rubber tracks that allowed its user to climb and descend staircases. The tracks would descend from the undercarriage, while pistons would tilt the chair back. Its purpose was to render access ramps and stair lifts obsolete.

The Scalevo is now a thing of the past. Its successor is the Scewo wheelchair. It is still a demonstration prototype and under active development. Mobility will become more flexible and enjoyable. Its design will be more aesthetic. What can it do?

The wheelchair of the 21st century combines agility and the comfort of two big wheels to drive around on flat ground, and robust, rubber tracks that enable the user to smoothly go up- and down stairs in a safe manner. The tracks are rigid and their wide base allows the wheelchair to operate even on spiral stair cases. It transfers onto the stairs and back to the floor automatically.

This is accomplished by the push of a button. The entire interface is sleek and minimal. No reduction in functionality is necessary. Many options are available when it comes to adjusting the seating position.

With either a press of the joystick or a shift in body weight, the user can maneuver the chair with agility and manage some dynamic driving over common obstacles, like curbs. When it comes to slippery surfaces or steep inclines, the tracks can be lowered to the ground. This increases traction.

The wheelchair does sit still, occasionally, depending on the lifestyle of the user. This is called stationary mode. You can drive forwards and backwards in this mode. However, it exists mainly for getting on and off the chair, getting below a table and for simply standing still.

One of the most over-looked aspects of co-existing with individuals in wheelchairs is that they tend to be permanently restricted to a perspective that is below everyone else’s eye level. Caretakers in nursing homes too easily forget, or are simply too tired, that the eye line of the person they are addressing is considerably lower. The Scewo has solved this problem with an elevated mode. Now, a wheelchair user can talk with friends and look them in the eye. Practically speaking, he or she can grab items from a shelf. This innovation literally allows the disabled to rise above it all!

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