Rehab Power Chairs Must Advance to Become More Confidence Inspiring
- By Scott Meuser, Mark E. Smith
- May 01, 2016
If we are to have a candid conversation
about how rehab power chairs serve those
whose lives rely on them, we can’t merely
acknowledge the medical benefits, but also
how power chairs must meet the emotional
and social aspects of the user — that is, serve
as confidence-inspiring solutions toward the
entirety of one’s life pursuits.
In the evolution of power chairs, as an
industry, we first rightfully focused on evolving
products to meet medical needs decades
ago, and it profoundly enhanced lives. Rehab
power chairs subsequently have dramatically
improved in so many areas, including seating
and positioning, maneuverability, frontal
stability, electronics and alternative drive
controls. However, our consumer research
indicates that more must be done in evolving
rehab power chairs. Users appreciate the
medical benefits and essential mobility offered by rehab power
chairs, but remain disappointed by remaining limitations. Users
are perplexed about why so many features that could be built into
their power chairs to increase daily functionality and quality of life
aren’t funded by reimbursement.
Even more disheartening, our consumer research shows that as
difficult as disability can be, the “medical model” power chair experience
can make it worse, where based on restrictive designs, users
feel less secure in their lives. Many feel left out of social situations
because they’re not at conversational height. Some feel insecure to
venture out alone out of fear of power chair reliability and battery
range issues. Others feel vulnerable at night, navigating their
power chairs without lights. And many feel embarrassed because
cumbersome, non-intuitive drive systems cause them to hit walls
and doorways. What consumers tell us is that everyday experiences
— trying to meet friends for dinner among high-top tables,
navigating a dark parking lot, or even maneuvering in their own
homes — can be “demoralizing” experiences.
What our consumer research ultimately shows, however, is that
we must break this cycle limiting the lives of those we serve. With
the past behind us and lessons learned — as an industry, through funding policy — we need to shift rehab power chairs from
limiting to confidence inspiring.
What we’re witnessing with user after user is that with every
incremental socially aware advancement that we make in rehab
power chair technology, they express how profoundly it improves
their lives — independence increases, social inclusion expands and
confidence climbs. “You wouldn’t think including lights on a power
chair is a big deal, but when I’m trying to negotiate sidewalks at
night coming home from the bus stop, it’s so much safer, and I feel
more confident in my independence,” a user told us.
Of course, building in rightful features that address the entire
spectrum of one’s well-being — from the medical to those that
create greater independence and remove social limitations — can
add cost. However, the industry is seeing successes in overcoming
the cost challenges through both educating funding sources and
striving to design and manufacture these features to be affordable.
For example, by demonstrating during the funding submission
process that power-adjustable seat height can increase the user’s
safety during transfers and decrease in-home care by allowing
independent cooking and such, funding sources are realizing the
vital nature of the technology to the beneficiary. Simultaneously,
some manufacturers are striving to reduce the cost of confidence-inspiring technologies like power seat elevation and
lighting so that it’s accessible to all. And additional clinical research
studies are being performed and presented to further demonstrate
to private and governmental funding sources that a small
investment toward providing the right technologies dramatically
improves the physical, emotional and social well-being of users. In
all, we need to continue uniting as an industry in furthering these
fundamental approaches. We must work to truly show the value of
confidence-inspiring rehab power chairs, where everyone understands
the ethical importance of funding and delivering technologies
that liberate the entirety of users’ lives.
As rehab power chair professionals, we must recognize that the
perspective of users is our guiding light. The late Steve Jobs said,
“What’s important is that you have a faith in people… and if you
give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” When it
comes to rehab power chair technology, let’s provide those we
serve with tools that empower all aspects of their lives. By delivering
power mobility solutions that not only meet medical needs,
but also social and emotional needs, we’re then giving power chair
users the fullest scope of well-being. And with that confidence-inspiring
technology, they can then best advocate for themselves
and their peers, including toward ensuring funding for such
rightful technologies — and everyone wins in that process.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Mobility Management.
Scott Meuser is chairman and CEO of Pride Mobility Products Corp./Quantum Rehab, based in Exeter, Pa.
Mark E. Smith is the General Manager for Pride Mobility Products Corp., and can be reached at 800-800-8586, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.