Stand Up Wheelchairs: What You Need To Know

Those of us living with a disability know how vital a wheelchair is to our independence and mobility. And although wheelchairs empower us, they still only give us a limited, seated view of the world. Enter the stand up wheelchair.

The stand up, or standing, wheelchair raises you from a seated or lying down position to a standing position. This not only increases your independence by allowing you to reach higher objects, but has benefits for your body and organs. In some chairs, you can even drive around in the standing up position.

Let’s learn more.

A man in a levo c3 stand up wheelchair doing shopping
A Levo C³ stand up wheelchair in action.

Why a stand up wheelchair?

There are various benefits to a standing wheelchair, not least being the ability to see the world from a standing position.

Most stand up chairs use a chest support, knee block and pelvic belt to secure you safely when standing up. See the video below for a good example of what the standing up action looks like.

Here are some health and lifestyle benefits of these chairs:

  • Relieves pressure on the buttocks and thighs, which reduces urinary tract infections and pressure sores or ulcers. It has also been reported to help maintain organ capacity
  • Can improve your breathing
  • Standing up improves blood circulation
  • Allows you to hold up your own weight, which is necessary to maintain bone health and strength
  • Can reduce spasticity and muscle contractions by allowing you to change position and stretch your muscles
  • Allows you to access kitchen counters, appliances, overhead cabinets and grocery store shelves
  • Users report having more energy and greater independence
  • Can open up leisure, social and employment options that require standing

Who can use one?

Not everyone living with a physical disability can use a stand up wheelchair. First of all, you have to be able to physically support your weight on your lower extremities without complications. It’s advised to work with a medical professional to help you identify whether this is possible for you (more on this later).

You also shouldn’t get a stand up wheelchair if you have the following:

  • Rigidity issues that don’t allow you to assume a standing position
  • Unresolved fractures in your lower body
  • Any history of dislocations in the lower body
  • Aren’t mentally able to operate a stand up function wheelchair
  • Have a condition that causes movements that could make you unstable

With that said, anyone whose physical condition doesn’t prevent assuming a standing position may benefit from the numerous physiological, psychological and practical benefits of a stand up chair.

Types of standing wheelchairs

Your standing wheelchair can either be used as a highly versatile primary chair, or a secondary wheelchair that can complement the function of your primary chair. There are two types – manual and electric, with electric consisting of two main sub-types.

A manual standing chair doesn’t have powered movement or lifting mechanisms. You move around pushing the wheels with your hands and you raise yourself up using a lever system. The video below shows a wheelchair user operating a manual standing chair.

Half power
With a half-power chair, the chair has powered mobility, but the lifting mechanisms are operated manually.

With a full-power chair, both the mobility and lifting mechanisms are powered. This means less work for the user.

The Permobil standing wheelchair

The Permobil F5 VS is considered the gold standard of full-power stand up wheelchairs due to the natural way it performs a stand. Most powered chairs will use one module to operate both its drive and seating features (such as tilts left or backrest recline).

The Permobil has an intelligent computer system that works along with the controller module to operate multiple actuators at once. Actuators are the parts of a device that help it to move physically by converting energy, often electrical, air, or hydraulic, into mechanical force. The result is a super smooth and biomechanically fluid standing movement that follows the natural movement of the body.

The Permobil F5 VS stand up wheelchair has both a sit to stand function and a lie to stand function. In other words, you can go from an almost horizontal laying down position to fully standing in this chair. You can also drive around in the standing position, but it’s advised to only do this indoors on a very flat surface to avoid it tilting forward.

The Levo C³

Levo was the first company to bring stand up wheelchairs to the market, back in 1975. They now have close to 50 years’ experience in stand up chair research, development and client and user feedback. All their chair models are reviewed and certified by internationally approved testing institutes.

Their latest model is the Levo C³, which they describe as “perfect for active people on the move.” It’s a compact and agile chair that’s easy to handle and extremely strong. Using its powerful drive system, the C³ is able to mount and dismount curbs of up to 9.9cm high.

This stand up chair has a very tight turning radius (53cm) compared to other chairs. It’s also superb at handling slopes. In general, most power chairs on the market can handle slopes between 6-8 degrees. The C³ can handle up to ten degrees.

Check out the C³ in action here:

The Quickie Q700 M

The Quickie Q700 M is a mid-wheel drive powered stand up wheelchair that performs particularly well outdoors. This is due to its Spidertrac 2.0 suspension of all six wheels that allows curb climbs of up to 10cm. The Q700 M’s front and rear wheels give it the ability to crawl up and down steep obstacles while keeping all its wheels to the ground – even when going up gradients of up to 10 degrees. 

The Q700 M also features memorised seating. In other words, it remembers your favourite standing or supine positions and allows you to save up to six of them. Check out the Quickie in action here:

From power assisted wheels to self-driving chairs, read our article on the latest wheelchair advancements.

One step further

It’s heartening to see the amount of research that’s being poured into providing better assistive technology for those living with disabilities. One piece of tech that does even more than the stand up wheelchair is the exoskeleton suit.

It’s a robotic suit that straps around the waist, legs and feet and allows a person to take mechanically-assisted steps (with the help of walking sticks). Exoskeleton development is still in its infancy, but it’s being used in Australia to help people with spinal cord injuries and those recovering from a stroke to walk again. 

Check out the suit in action, here:

How to choose a stand up wheelchair

In general, stand up wheelchairs – especially electric ones – are more expensive than chairs that only allow sitting. Before making such a big investment, you’ll want to make sure your stand up chair matches your body, lifestyle and environment in every way.

A licensed and occupational therapist who’s experienced in all things wheelchairs will be able to provide you with what’s called a wheelchair script. This will be based on an assessment of several factors that determine the right chair for you. Among those are the type and progress of your disability or condition, the number of hours you need to spend in your wheelchair, the activities you perform in it, your trunk control and ability to weight shift, and many more.

Our piece on occupational therapy for wheelchair scripting will give you a comprehensive idea on how your OT will help you. Also check out our piece on what to expect from your assistive tech occupational therapy assessment.

Insurance for your wheelchair

Blue Badge Insurance has specialised in providing comprehensive wheelchair insurance in Australia since 2014. By using our cover you’ll know if you have an accident we’ll get your wheels repaired or replaced quickly and thoughtfully, so you can get moving again ASAP. The same applied with our insurance for wheelchair accessible vehicles and mobility scooter insurance.

We also offer travel insurance for wheelchair users, which means your wheels are protected whether you’re 1km or 10,000km away from home. Read more on all the benefits of our now.

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