Taking the shock out of your wheelchair (or at least, the wheels)

Jonathan Kaupanger
July 25, 2018 - 3:45 pm

Photo by SoftWheels

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"Smoother ride, better stability without sacrificing speed." 

It may sound like a car review for the latest sedan, but it's not:  it's the future of VA wheelchairs for veterans.

VA just signed a deal for new wheelchair wheels developed by an Israeli based startup company.  The initial order of 361 SoftWheel wheelchairs are here, and another 1,639 chairs expected over the next three years.  SoftWheel is available at the VA through Ki Mobility

This technology gives veterans better stability, without sacrificing speed.  The wheels have three suspension arms that are shock absorbers.  They act like spokes until you encounter an obstacle or rough terrain.  These arms keep the rider from feeling vibrations that are normally transferred to the back or neck.

“It’s very common for someone who sits throughout the day to have chronic back pain due to the fact that the person sits in a wheelchair,” said SoftWheels Chief Revenue Officer, Hanit Marinov.  “The suspension is making their quality of life better by suspending anything they’re exposed to while riding the wheelchair.”

The average user won’t require any special training to use the wheels, but there is special training to fit the wheel to the veteran.  The suspension mechanism goes into play according to the weight of the person in the chair.  VA staff is being trained on how to fit a chair to a veteran now.  These wheels work with any chair currently on the market.

“We are aware of this product and are following it with interest,” said Carl Blake, Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).  “We think it may be another fine tool for clinicians to consider when evaluating a patient and we expect to see the VA begin to provide the wheelchairs if appropriate.”

To get a wheelchair at VA, your primary care provider refers you to the wheelchair clinic.   Your seating needs are evaluated and a prescription is developed.  VA does not issue wheelchairs, scooters or power wheelchairs just to make a veterans life easier.  They are only issued after specific medical and practical conditions are met.  Wheelchairs are issued through VA’s prosthetic service. Veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system and have a medical need for a prosthetic service or item. 

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