News Release

Standing wheelchair and other advances in technology showcased at annual event

Jim Cochrane trying out a motorized wheelchair for the first time. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

An event in Saint John Wednesday gave occupational therapists and their patients a chance to catch up on some of the latest wheelchair technology.

 

"I have back problems and if I can't tilt the chair back…I have to have someone do it for me," said Jim Cochrane, trying out a motorized wheelchair for the first time.

Cochrane lost the use of his legs about two years ago after a series of back surgeries and said the most important aspect of a wheelchair is the ability for him to adjust his own position.

"It makes it a lot easier and I can get my comfort zone better."

A number of wheelchairs were on display at the Charles Gorman Arena in Saint John. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

The event, at the Charles Gorman Arena, started out 10 years ago as an appreciation day for occupational therapists. But organizers Apollo Medical have recently begun inviting representatives from wheelchair companies, turning the annual event into more of a trade show.  "Years ago, it was a one power chair and one manual chair, that was all there ever was," said Ray Parsons of Apollo Medica. "Now there's hundreds of power chairs and even more manual chairs."

 
New technology has helped improved wheelchairs for those who have to use them. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Wednesday's event featured a wheelchair which allows the user to go from sitting, to standing while maintaining mobility.

Travis Kays of Permobil Canada said it's not just a neat gimmick.

"There's a lot of benefits to standing in general, such as maintaining blood circulation, reducing contracture, enabling digestion," he said. "All benefits that come with standing, not just, first thing people think of is that reach, being able to work."

The technology is advanced, but some products also carry a high price tag. One of the standing wheelchairs retails for around $20,000.