The Transformers Cometh!

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Written by:  Luke C. Hsieh, Assistive Technology Advocate, Community Access Center

While there has been little exciting news in the realm of high-tech consumer electronics – other than the soul-eating-time-devouring-productivity-killing Pokemon Go – there is some news in the tablet word.

Sometimes masquerading as a therapeutic app for people with agoraphobia, or, more generally, a cure for most Americans’ aversion to outdoor exercising,  the iPad has gotten faster and bigger.

Not to be outdone, Samsung has now also released an enormous 18.4 inch Android tablet called the Samsung View.  These bloated Android tablets, of course, have actually  been with us since 2011, starting with Viewsonic’s Smart Monitor and HP’s all-in-one Android Computer.

However, with the more recent popularity of carbon fiber and other metal alloys, there has been an exciting and welcoming move by the durable medical equipment (DME) industry to make their traditionally bulky and heavy devices more sleek, mobile and portable.

For example, check out this fold-able scooter called the Luggie.  I first saw Luggie in late 2014, when a vendor did a presentation at my workplace, Community Access Center,  in Riverside, California. This lightweight portable scooter actually folds into a luggage-shape so that people can tote it around like a luggage.


Or, how about the EZ Lite Cruiser fold-able power chair?

The folding/unfolding operation of these takes about 3 – 5 minutes for experts and 6 – 10 minutes for most able-bodied people.  But, for a person with moderately severe CP, i.e. yours truly, it’s just not going to happen.

Despite this little setback, I imagine that the advent of the folding power-chairs can still make life a lot easier for family members and caretakers of a person with a disability. At least it eliminates the needs for the cumbersome hitch-based wheelchair carrier or an expensive electric-wheelchair lift.

Then there is SmartDrive, a relatively portable detachable contraption that converts manual wheelchairs into semi-automatic self-propelling chairs:

Last but not the least, there is also the Drive Medical Duet Dual Function Transport Wheelchair Walker Rollator:  These rollator walkers can be folded into a transport chair, so that the family can just purchase one device instead of both.  These can be procured from or for a little more than $150.00.


Here is a demo video:



In addition to the above-mentioned lightweight mobility devices, there are even more!

The Air-Hawk foldable, Drive Cirrus Plus, Heartway P12j, and Drive Medical Wildcat are also lightweight and portable.

With all of these great options available, you’d think that portability in DME is becoming the new industrial standard and that most people that use wheelchairs would be using one of these.  Sadly, that is not the case. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) have decided to classify these folding power chairs as recreational devices, which means, you guessed it, they are not covered by insurance. So, if an individual with a disability wants to go out to quickly catch a Pikachu or two, he or she will have to self-fund the portability unit CMS decides to fund them all.

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