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Development of a Manual Stand-Up Wheelchair that Provides Mobility in Both Sitting and Standing Modes

(Project D3, R5: Manipulation)

Contact Information:

Todd Kuiken, MD, PhD (PI) 

Tim Reissman, PhD (Engineering Project Leader)


Approximately 1.7 million Americans use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility, and the large majority (90%) use manual wheelchairs rather than powered devices. Users are predominantly elderly, thus as the population ages wheelchair use will likely increase. Manual wheelchairs provide the user with mobility in a seated position; however, there are many compelling reasons for enabling wheelchair users to stand.


The functional benefits of standing include a raised and enlarged workspace, allowing easy use of kitchen counters and appliances and access to overhead cabinets or grocery store shelves. Being able to stand may thus increase independence and enhance employment and leisure opportunities.

Standing also has physical benefits—reducing the risk of osteoporosis, muscle spasticity, and contractures; improving cardiovascular, digestive, and renal function; and relieving or preventing pressure sores. Perhaps equally important are the psychological benefits: when standing, wheelchair users can interact with others eye-to-eye; they do not have to always look up at the rest of society, or have everyone literally look down on them.

Some electric wheelchairs allow users to stand when stationary, or to move in a standing position, and powered mobile platforms enable people to move around in a standing position, but do not allow the person to sit. However, powered devices tend to be expensive, big, and heavy. Some manual wheelchairs provide mobility in the conventional sitting posture, and when stationary, allow the user to stand in place to perform a task. However, the user must return to a sitting position in order to move the chair. There are no commercially available manual wheelchairs that provide mobility in both a sitting and a standing position: this constitutes a very apparent and important mobility gap for the more than one million manual wheelchair users.

We propose to design a manual standing wheelchair (MSW) that allows the user to be mobile in either a seated or standing position. Our objective is to build an innovative wheelchair that meets important user needs.

Read how high school students from Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) are involved in this project

Patent: Kuiken, Todd A. 2007. Manual Operable Standing Wheelchair. US Patent 7,165,778, filed November 7, 2005, and issued January 23, 2007.

Target Population

The large and diverse target population for the proposed MSW comprises any individual who uses a wheelchair for mobility and includes individuals with a range of mobility-limiting disabilities.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, grant number H133E130020.