CRT Technology Showcase
iLevel: Raising Clients to Greater Heights
- By Laurie Watanabe
- May 01, 2015
If life is made up of little moments and details, perhaps the same can be said of truly functional seating & wheeled mobility.
There are, for instance, many clinical benefits to wheelchair seat elevation, including facilitating of transfers and reduction of risk for the neck pain and injuries that can be caused by constantly having to look up at the world from a standard wheelchair height.
These benefits are significant. But ask a power chair user what he or she values most about seat elevation, and you’ll probably get a different, more personal story.
Elevation Without True Functionality
The seat elevation option is not new, says Jean Sayre, MSOT, COTA/L, ATP, CEAC, senior director of R&D clinical development for Quantum Rehab.
“Seat elevation has been around for decades, but has been primarily used in static or very slow non-functional positions,” she notes.
That left wheelchair users in a quandary: Elevation offered many advantages, but practically speaking, consumers were immobile when at those greater heights. For instance, elevating at the supermarket could enable consumers to reach items on higher shelves. But since consumers couldn’t drive at a functional speed while elevated, they’d either take a very long time to traverse a supermarket aisle, or they’d have to repeatedly elevate, then return to a lower position so they could drive down aisles more quickly.
“What we heard from clients,” Sayre explains, “was that if a power chair could safely drive at a functional speed while elevated, it would improve so many activities, from grocery shopping in real time to socializing with peers. We have been informed that clients just want to be able to accomplish their daily activities in a timely manner. The clients voiced that this is one of the injustices they face on a daily basis: If they are fortunate to have seat elevation, why does it have to be so slow?”
The traditional problem: “As power seating elevates, the center of gravity rises, and in some conditions, stability decreases,” Sayre says. “This is why power elevating seats typically have full drive lockout or severe speed inhibits, dramatically limiting driving.”
A Real-Time Solution
Quantum Rehab’s answer is the new iLevel system, used in conjunction with the manufacturer’s new Q6 Edge 2.0 power base. With a single-stage drivetrain and caster arms redesigned for enhanced performance, the Edge 2.0 can be ordered with iLevel: Raising Clients to Greater Heights iLevel, or the system can be retrofitted later on.
“With our mid-wheel-drive, 6-wheel power base, we knew that if we could further stabilize the power base while the seat was elevated, we could create a safer, faster, ‘walking’ speed mode at 10" of lift,” Sayre says. “One can also elevate and/or lower while the mobility base is moving.”
Sayre explains that as the seat elevates, iLevel uses advanced electronics to increase the stability of the suspension. In keeping with iLevel’s “real-time” operation, the seat raises or lowers in just 24 seconds, so consumers don’t have to endure interminable lag times whenever they want to change positions. The result is that iLevel “allows faster ‘walking’ speed stability up to 3 mph,” Sayre says — thus enabling power chair users to keep up with companions while also maintaining eye contact during conversations.
“The ADL benefits of iLevel are countless and fairly obvious,” Sayre says. “Again, being able to grocery shop while elevated at walking speed, for example, dramatically increases functional independence.
“However, iLevel users most commonly have noted how unexpectedly impacted they’ve been by the social and emotional benefits. One of our managers is a power chair user of 39 years, and discusses how different the world can be when elevated. At social mixers, he’s at conversational standing height with others. He can stroll the mall with his fiancée, arm in arm. He can enjoy meals at high-top tables with friends. And, he can move through crowds where he’s seen, where people look him in the eye. Just think of a college student moving through a campus hall in a power chair, where instead of being low in the crowd, he or she travels shoulder-to-shoulder with peers, conversing at walking speed. The mom/dad that is preparing a meal for their family accomplishing the task in less time. The person that is wanting the benefit of standing and desiring to be at eye level, but is discouraged when he/she receives the news that their bone density will not support that desire. iLevel can be the alternative for that person. These are such real, life-changing examples of how elevated motion can truly touch a client’s spirit while increasing access and functionality.”
Tackling the Funding Dilemma
Seat elevation has long been a contentious point between healthcare professionals who praise its benefits,
and funding sources who question its medical necessity.
While wholly aware of the debate, Quantum Rehab introduced iLevel at February’s International Seating Symposium (ISS) in Nashville, as if to openly challenge reluctant payors by showing off the systems’ functionality. ISS attendees were invited to elevate, then drive through a zig-zagging course and down a ramp while in raised position.
Asked why the manufacturer would invest so much in a positioning option that many funding sources balk at providing, Sayre says, “We see seat elevation as both a medical and quality-of-life issue. It is not a luxury item; it is a necessary tool for the client to achieve their daily activities, whether it includes transfers, reaching, protecting their joint integrity, providing relief to their musculature, enhancing their ability to hear, sensory awareness, socialization, and simply empowering the person. There are so many physical, physiological, social and psychosocial benefits from elevation as a true tool toward the client’s wellbeing that it should be available to everyone in need.”
One of the iLevel’s premiere fans is Kiel Eigen (pictured), a 22-year-old who sustained a C5 spinal cord injury in a football accident in his early teens. “In my previous chairs, I rarely used the seat lift because I really couldn’t move anywhere,” he says. “With iLevel, I have full mobility at standing height…I have independence and stature that I haven’t known since my accident.”
Eigen adds that the system has “doubled my functionality over a normal power chair.” That fact seems to motivate Quantum Rehab representatives, who speak in terms of human rights when it comes to the new iLevel.
“It is such an injustice for a person not to have seat elevation,” Sayre says. “The world isn’t all at sitting height, and in seeing how much more access to functional independence and socialization that elevated mobility provides, it’s impossible not to recognize the life-changing role it plays in clients’ lives. We believe that from funding sources to manufacturers, everyone must recognize the entirety of the client experience — and iLevel is one way we’re striving to best serve the entirety of those with complex rehab needs.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.