Wheelchairs Now

Agents at Calgary Airport and United Airlines Refused Amputee's Lithium Battery for Scooter

Stearn Hodges with his wife amputee refused at airport because of lithium battery for wheelchair

Stearn Hodge lost his right leg and left arm in a workplace accident in 1984. Due to the risk of infection, he can not wear or use his prosthetic legs for long periods of time. So he uses a scooter powered by lithium batteries. 

When Stearn tried to get on his flight from Calgary Airport, Canada, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a holiday to celebrate his 43th wedding anniversary with wife Jan, he was told the batteries were not allowed on board the plane by a security agent at the Calgary International Airport and a representative from United Airlines.

However, that is WRONG.  Stearn Hodge's battery was allowed as long as he brought it onto the plane as a carry on. 

The agent with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and a United Airlines official cited fire safety concerns over the potentially volatile batteries - even though the Hodges had secured the required written permission from the airline beforehand. 

While lithium-ion batteries are a potential fire hazard, global standards issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) allow people with disabilities to travel with compact lithium batteries for medical devices in carry-on luggage.

Hodge said that neither CATSA or United Airlines officials would listen to or read his written approval from the airline and his IATA documents in support.

Unable to move around without his scooter when they got to their hotel, Hodge was forced to crawl on the floor in front of his wife to use the bathroom.

Stearn Hodges forced to crawl on the floor because United Airlines and Security officals at Calgary airport refused his lithium battery for his travel scooter, when it was allowed

He spent much of the holiday in bed - something he described as "the most humiliating experience I can think of."  

Now the former contractor wants his case heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and told CBA: "It unmasks how real my disability is… I haven't been the same since."  

To add further insult, after being told he couldn't bring his batteries on board, a CATSA agent suggested he get a wheelchair instead. 

"How's a one-armed guy going to run a wheelchair? How am I going to go down a ramp and brake with one hand? But that shouldn't even have to come up," he said.

Hodge's wife Jan had recently undergone cancer treatment, which affected her spine, meaning she couldn't push a wheelchair for her husband either.

In an email sent to Hodge by a United Airlines complaint resolution official, they said: "it appears we were in violation of federal disability requirements," and offered an $800 travel certificate and apologized for the "inconvenience."  

"Inconvenience is when it rains on your holiday," said Hodge. "This was a… life-changing moment for me and my wife."

On May 9, Hodge's lawyer, John Burns, will ask a Federal Court judge to compel the commission to hear the case.

"It's a failure of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to grant access to the remedy that the statute provides," said Burns.

The Canadian Human Rights Act allows for up to $20,000 in damages for each count of pain and suffering, with a further maximum of $20,000 if the discrimination is 'willful or reckless.'

Please do your due diligence in making sure your product and battery are allowed. Something Mr. Hodges did. We urge anyone flying with a mobility device with a litium battery that are allowed on a commercial airplane to not let airport security or airline representatives to refuse your device or battery. Know your rights!

Disabled Teen, 19, Kicked off Ryanair Flight After his Electric Wheelchair Sparked “Explosion” Fears

A diabled teen in a battery powered wheelchair was taken off a Ryanair flight because "there was a danger of explosion", it is claimed.

Ryan Air Electric Wheelchair

Noel Diaz, 19, from Aachen in Germany, was traveling to Alicante in Spain to spend time with relatives for Christmas and New Year's.

Noel was already seated on a Ryanair flight in Cologne-Bonn Airport with his dad Jose, but was removed from the flight because of "safety reasons".

Jose said he is "well aware of the rules when it comes to taking his wheelchair on a plane.  Prior to departure, Noel and his dad booked the tickets and cleared the paperwork with the airline where they provided them with the exact type of electric battery that powers the wheelchair.

Jose said: "My severely disabled boy and I just had our seat belts fastened when the flight crew asked us to leave the aircraft.

"They said Noel's wheelchair 'could not be transported because of safety reasons'. They said there was a danger of explosion."

Despite their protests Noel and Jose said they had to leave the flight.

Jose said: "The Ryanair personnel were tough as nails, heaving my defenseless boy out of the plane seat, pushing him onto the tarmac."

The pair had to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve in Aachen, rather than in Alicante.

Noel's mum, Natalia, said her son does not want to board a plane again.

She said: "It will take some time until he has processed this trauma. As usual we had to specify when booking that we travel with electric wheelchair, what kind of wheelchair it is, the weight, size, which battery, etc. I have not experienced anything like this before."

Ryanair say wheelchair batteries must be dry/gel cell or lithium-ion batteries.

It must have its battery disconnected during the flight.

A spokesman for the budget airline said: "All battery operated wheelchairs must be deactivated for the flight duration, in line with safety regulation, and the battery power must be isolated to prevent inadvertent activation.

This incident comes after RyanAir kicked Kathleen Dunne, 81, and her son Gary, 53 from Liverpool flight because his wheelchair would not "fold up".

Check the FAA's Website for Current Rules & Regulations about bringing Hazardous Materials on board an aircraft.

All EZ Lite Cruisers with the 10 Ah Battery are airline FAA & TSA approved in the United States. 

The Present and Future of Personal Mobility

The world in on the verge of a fundamental transformation in the personal mobility industry.  These transformations could have far-reaching benefits for those who will be needing mobility devices in the near future.  Technology is advancing at an exponential rate.  We are already living with self driving cars, robotic suits that can help paralyzed people walk again, flying cars, brain measuring technology, personal AI, and much more.  Some might fear that the technology is moving too fast, but for others, it's not fast enough.  And for many, it's just in time.  We will be discussing the innovations to existing mobility technology, development of new ones, and what the future holds. 

 

The Aid - a walking cane that is also a personal health management device.

The Aid walking cane personal health monitorWe want to start off the list with the most common mobility aid, the ubiquitous walking cane. Not in production yet, the concept was conjured up by Egle Ugintaite.  He won the Fujitsu design award for this concept.  In his own words, "‘The Aid is mainly dedicated to help elderly people, or people after trauma who often have a lack of confidence to step outside their house, causing isolation, depression… ‘the aid’ is designed to be a real ‘helping hand': to guide and prevent one from being lost, providing a feeling of security, allowing one to receive immediate help if they need it, and, of course physical support, as a walking cane. an integrated navigator, which works as a service + health device (pulse, blood pressure temperature) features measuring sensors along with an SOS button, which, by pressing it when help is needed, contacts the help center and sends the user’s current health data and location to provide immediate and qualified help. the object is simple to use (2 buttons only), but at the same time smart."

The Aid component. walking cane by egle ugintaite c

1 – soft component that comes in contact with the user’s arm
2 – sensors on the interior space monitor pulse, blood pressure, body temperature
3 – on the outside of the clasp an LCD screen displays health data
4 – SOS button
5 – cancel button (if SOS button has been pressed by accident)

Even though its not in production, this shows the endless possibilities of innovating even the simplest mobility devices to bring it into the 21st century. 

 

Rollz Motion - Rollator & Wheelchair

The second most commonly used mobility device is the walker/rollator.  The Rollz is a 2-in-1 rollator and a push-able wheelchair that's in production and has been available since 2010.  Not much different from existing rollators other than it's slick and ergonomics design.  It won the Red Dot and iF Design Award 2012.  

The Rollz Motion is fold-able and compact.  It weighs about 24 lbs and has a weight capacity of ab out 275 lbs.  It's unfolded dimensions are approximately 34 x 26 x 25 (H x W x L).  The rear wheels are 12 inches in diameter and the models come in four colors: Deep Purple, Orange, Ice Blue, and Cool Grey.  One draw back is it's a lot more expensive than your traditional walkers that do pretty much the same thing. 

 

Honda UNI CUB - omni-directional driving wheel system

The UNI-CUB personal mobility device features a compact size, a comfortable saddle, Honda's proprietary balance control technology and the world's first omni-directional driving wheel system (Honda Omni Traction Drive System), which makes possible the same freedom to move forward, backward, laterally and diagonally that people enjoy when walking.  This is not a wheelchair, but more like an electric unicycle which has an omni-directional main wheel. Unfortunately, the UNI CUB is still in development and not available to purchase yet. 

 

The Go wheelchair - customized 3D-printed manual wheelchair. 

The Go 3D printed wheelchair

The most common thing that comes to mind when discussing personal mobility is the wheelchair.   The basic components of a manual wheelchair have been same over the years.  There are many wheelchair design concepts, but we will focus on one in particular. One company (LayerDesign) is customizing almost every part with the use of 3D printers

LayerLAB is LayerDesign's research division that was founded in 2016.  Their inaugural project is the GO wheelchair.  It's what they call a, "made to measure" wheelchair that accurately fits the individual's body shape, weight, and disability to reduce injury and increase comfort, flexibility, and support.  This is a great application of 3D printing technology that is being utilized. LayerLAB even has a "GO app", that allow users to participate int he design process by specifying optional elements, patterns, and colors. 

 

WHILL Model M - FDA-cleared - Prescription Only

WHILL Model M

Manual wheelchairs came first but we eventually motorized them.  We had previously written about the WHILL Model A, so we will discuss the new FDA-cleared Model M.  The Model M seems to be a modified version of the Model A to make it FDA compliant.  The differences we notice are the added arm rests and the ability to move the seat forward so that a person getting in and out of the chair can get their footing.  This is not possible on the Model A because the footrest plate is static

 

EZ Lite Cruiser Personal Mobility Aid

ez lite cruiser deluxe dx12 electric wheelchair

A cross between a traditional manual wheelchair that is typically light weight and portable, and an electric powered wheelchair like the WHILL, without the draw backs of it's weight. 

Practicality is essential for daily use.  If you don't need to get on a car or bus to get from place to place, a heavy electric powered wheelchair could be ideal. But if you need to travel in a car, bus, boat, or even airplane...the EZ Lite Cruiser might be exactly what you need.

The EZ Lite Cruiser is also available with detachable motors which makes it the lightest the portable electric wheelchair on the market today. With this feature, the heaviest piece you'll have to lift up is about 36 lbs.

EZ Lite Cruiser also has a portable fold lift to help you get the device into your personal vehicle. 

 

Toyota i-unit, i-swing, i-REAL

Toyota i-unit personal mobility

i-road is a new concept in urban mobility. “Toyota i-Road” combines the potential of both cars and motorbikes.  Based on the future of urban transport, Toyota has worked to ensure next generation performance in terms of driving, size and environmental performance.  

Toyota i-unit Upright position in the low-speed mode. The low-speed mode enables the driver to move at eye level and at the same pace as someone on foot, making it possible for them to hold a conversation as they move. Reclined position in the high-speed mode.  The high-speed mode allows the i-unit to be driven in a stable, reclining position with a low center of gravity on regular roads. The styling concept for the i-unit in the high-speed mode is an F1 racecar.

Toyota i-swing

Toyota i-swing personal mobility

The single-person vehicle package boasts an individual design with a "wearable" feeling. Its low-resistance urethane body is covered in cloth to soften any impact while operating near people, and an LED illumination panel can be customized to display an image to suit your mood.

When traveling in a bustling street full of people, the i-swing can operate in a two-wheeled mode that takes up little space, so that it is possible to travel while keeping pace and talking with someone on foot. When there is a need to move quickly, the i-swing can change to a three-wheeled mode, which is fun to travel in. In addition to the stick control, a pedal control can be used to provide a fresh cornering feeling, as you shift your body weight as if you were on skis.

Toyota i-REAL

Toyota i-REAL personal mobilityPersonal mobility i-REAL was developed to increase opportunities to enjoy a more rewarding lifestyle through more encounters with a variety of people and objects. The really essential functions needed for personal mobility have been conceived and designed based on untrammeled thinking.
The TOYOTA i-REAL wheelbase expands and contracts. In pedestrian areas, the wheelbase is shortened, and by adjusting the driver’s eye line with pedestrians a sensation of natural movement is achieved. In traffic areas the wheelbase is lengthened and the center of gravity is lowered to enable higher-speed travel with a sense of stability.
The i-REAL is powered by electricity, and it can travel up to 30km on one charge. The two front wheels move up and down independently in a newly developed synchronized “active lean” mechanism giving optimal control of the vehicle lean angle.
The optimal drive posture can be obtained by adjusting the drive controller. It is also provided with a communications display to view blogs and local information.

 

SuitX Phoenix Exoskeleton

The Phoenix exoskeleton is the world's lightest and most advanced exoskeleton designed to help people with mobility disorders to be upright and mobile. In the clinic, at home, and in the workplace Phoenix has successfully enabled many individuals to stand up, walk about, and speak to peers eye-to-eye.  Phoenix has only two actuators at its hip; the knee joints are designed to allow support during stance and ground clearance during swing. 

Major Features:

  • A modular exoskeleton allowing the user to independently put on and remove each piece.
  • Weighs only 12.25kg (27 lbs), affording greater agility.
  • A speed of 1.1 miles/hour (0.5 m/sec) has been clocked by a Phoenix user.  However, the maximum speed depends on the individual user.
  • On a single charge, Phoenix can walk for 4 hours continuously or 8 hours intermittently.
  • Phoenix is adjustable for different size users and can be easily configured to fit individual conditions.
  • An intuitive interface makes it easy for users to control standing up, sitting down and walking.
  • Phoenix can comfortably be worn while seated in a wheelchair.

 

HAL by Cyberdyne

HAL® [Hybrid Assistive Limb] is the world‘s first cyborg-type robot, by which a wearer‘s bodily functions can be improved, supported and enhanced.

Wearing of HAL leads to a fusion of “man”, “machine” and “information”. HAL assists a physically challenged person to move and enables him or her to exert bigger motor energy than usual. HAL is also considered as the system that accelerates a motor learning of cerebral nerves.

When a person moves the body, he or she first thinks about the motions in his or her brain.  By thinking “I want to walk.” the brain transmits necessary signals to muscles necessary for the motions through nerves.  In the healthy body, each muscle is able to receive signals destined from the brain to it and move as strongly and fast as intended.  Signals sent to muscles by the brain leak on the skin surface as very faint signals, so called “bio-electric signals [BES]”. HAL® is able to read BES by only attaching the originally developed detectors on the surface on the wearer‘s skin. By consolidating various information, HAL® recognizes what sorts of motions the wearer intends.  HAL®, in accordance with the recognized motions, controls its power units.*2 This function enables HAL® to assist the wearer‘s motions as he or she intends and exerts bigger power than he or she ordinarily exerts. 

The mechanism to move the human body does not end up with only moving muscles. The brain confirms how the body moved on what sort of signals. When HAL® has appropriately assisted the motions of “walking”, the feeling “I could walk!” is fed back to the brain. By this means, the brain becomes able to learn the way to emit necessary signals for “walking” gradually. This leads to “the important first step” in walking of the physically challenged person without being assisted by HAL®. The only robot that can provide appropriate solutions for motions to the brain is HAL®.

 

Honda Walking Assist

Supporting people with weakened leg muscles to walk.  

Striving to offer the joy of mobility to more people, Honda began research and development of the Honda Walking Assist Device in 1999. As with ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot, the Honda Walking Assist Device adopts cooperative control technology that was developed based on Honda's cumulative study of human walking.

The Walking Assist Device features a function to influence the user to achieve efficient walking based on the inverted pendulum model, which is a theory of bipedal walking, and is designed as a device to be used in the training of walking.

 

REX Bionics

Custom built for the individual, REX P opens up a world of social, recreational and work opportunities as your mobility is enhanced.

REX P is completely self-supporting, giving you the freedom to use your hands, whilst remaining stable and balanced. We understand that, for wheelchair users, protecting the health of your shoulders is important, as is the ability to use your hands, which is why REX® is designed to allow hands-free standing and walking*

*Please note that REX P is not registered with the US FDA and is not available for sale within the USA.

 

ReWalk Personal 6.0

The new ReWalk Personal 6.0 System is designed for all day use at home and in the community. It is a customizable exoskeleton and is configured specifically for you. This precise fit optimizes safety, function and joint alignment.

ReWalk is the most researched exoskeleton. The battery-powered system features a light, wearable exoskeleton with motors at the hip and knee joints. The ReWalker controls movement using subtle changes in his/her center of gravity. A forward tilt of the upper body is sensed by the system, which initiates the first step. Repeated body shifting generates a sequence of steps which mimics a functional natural gait of the legs.

ReWalk offers assistance seeking reimbursement for your personal system and a comprehensive maintenance and warranty program after you take it home.

 

INDEGO lower limb exoskeleton

Indego Personal offers users with spinal cord injury a new level of independence at home and in the community.  At just 26 pounds, Indego’s elegant design has no exposed cables or upper-body apparatus and does not require bulky backpack mounted components. Indego Personal offers people with mobility impairments a new level of independence. Designed for personal use, Indego offers features that set it apart as a tool for personal mobility for those with spinal cord injuries.

Future advancements will enable use with a wide array of partial mobility impairments, pending regulatory approval. 

Mirroring natural human movement, lean forward to initiate standing or walking and lean backward to stop and sit. 

An Indego app on your mobile device allows you to control operation, change settings, and capture data without the need for tethered controls.

Indego Personal allows personal mobility on a variety of surfaces both indoors and outdoors and can even be worn while sitting in a car.

With up to four hours of continuous use, a fast charging battery allows for extended use at home and in the community.

 

EKso GT robotic exoskeleton

Ekso Bionics Ekso GT™ robotic exoskeleton is a comprehensive gait therapy tool which provides an unparalleled rehabilitation experience for patients and therapists alike.

Ekso GT enables functional based, intensive, over ground gait training and is designed to support the re-learning of correct step patterns and weight shifts, potentially mitigating compensatory behaviors.

Variable Assist™ our adaptive or “smart” software, dynamically provides 0-100% power to either side of the body and promotes a greater number of high-quality steps in a shorter time period for a broad spectrum of patients.

Variable Assist is the only software feature commercially available that allows clinicians to dynamically augment their patients’ strength and to strategically target deficient aspects of their gait while the patient walks. It engages patients by challenging their abilities, balancing the physical effort they exert with the amount of help they need to achieve a more normalized gait.

 

Well, that's it for now.  We'll be on the look out for more, and bring them to you in our blog when we come across something noteworthy. 

No one knows what the future will bring.  Even something like this hybrid robotic suit and segway could be just around the corner, but innovation is always happening. 

Controlling Wheelchairs with 3D Motion Technology

A Brazilian startup called HOO.BOX Robotics is developing a control system for wheelchairs that is completely powered by facial recognition technology.  It's called Wheelie and it was designed to be simple and comfortable. Check out their introduction video below. 

 

 

Wheelie is a robotic wheelchair that uses facial expressions, eye tracking, head movement, and speech recognition to control it.  It uses Intel's "RealSense" technology and translate them into wheelchair commands.  Wheelie is also a custom solution. People have different facial and physical limitations or comfort constraints.  Others will prefer head movement or even eye tracking solutions.  So each user's controls are programmed to be comfortable and accurate for each individual.  Check out the videos below of HOO.BOX demonstrating some of the custom controls. 

 

 

 

Wheelie was initially developed by researchers at Brazil’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, State University of Campinas (FEEC / Unicamp).  Some might be wondering why this technology is needed.  Wheelie will be extremely useful for people who suffer from conditions that limit the use of their hands and arms, such as cerebral palsy or results of a stroke.  Wheelie utilizes a laptop and Intel’s RealSense facial-recognition camera to capture and decipher nearly 80 points from a person’s face. The software can be programmed to recognize facial movements such as a smile, half smile, wrinkled nose, kiss face, tongue out or puffed-out cheeks and then assign those actions to driving the wheelchair forward, backward, left or right, or stopping.  The trick to making this practical was finding facial cues that were comfortable for the user.  

Check out the video below to see Wheelie being maneuvered around obstacles in an office space:

 

BMW is building wheelchairs for the Paralympics

The 2016 Paralympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between Sept 7th to the 18th. BMW has announced that they will be building 6 custom racing wheelchairs to start, one for each member of the U.S. team.  This is quite unusual for a car company, even though BMW designed a two-man bobsled for the U.S. Olympic team to use in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.  The bobsled helped the U.S. overcome a 62-year medal drought at Sochi.  

The wheelchairs are being made by BMW's Designworks Group.

Each seat will be custom made for each racer, and the gloves to go with the wheelchairs will also be custom made from a 3D printer.  3D scanners are being used to custom fit these new chairs and gloves to each racer.  The chair will also be made out of carbon fiber which is a lot lighter and stronger than aluminum chairs. 

The Olympians will be able to test out just how fast these new chairs are, before they debut at the Rio Paralympics in September 2016.

The racers are anxious and excited to try the new piece of equipment.  Josh George, a former gold medalist in the 100 meters, seemed excited at the prospect of receiving it, but not only because it will help him with his craft.

“It’s the coolest-looking piece of equipment I’ve ever seen,” he said of the new design.

He also said, “If I’m pushing the BMW and other racers are pushing aluminum frames, I’m going to be able to go the same speed as them with less energy exerted,” George said. “That means at the end of a race, the last 5K, the last 10K, I’m going to have more in the tank than they are.”