Manual stand-up wheelchair - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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

Project Overview

  • Early prototype of Manual Standing Wheelchair (MSW) in sitting mode.
  • Early prototype of Manual Standing Wheelchair (MSW) transitioning from sitting to standing mode.
  • Early prototype of Manual Standing Wheelchair (MSW) in standing mode.

Project D3, R5

Objective: To design a manual standing wheelchair (MSW) that allows users to be mobile in either a seated or standing position.

In order to develop this MSW, we will build upon a preliminary prototype standing frame based on a patented design developed at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (US Patent 7,165,778).


Approximately 1.7 million Americans use wheelchairs or scooters for mobility, and the large majority (90%) use manual wheelchairs rather than powered devices. Currently, 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.

Current Options

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.

Target Population

Any individual who uses a wheelchair for mobility, including those with a range of mobility-limiting disabilities.

Resources & Statistics


  • Standing can stimulate circulation and tone the cardiovascular system.
  • Renal function can be aided by standing, and standing has been shown to decrease the incidence of urinary tract infections.

Resources & Organizations

Americans with Disabilities: 2005 (U.S. Census report, issued in 2008)

National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA)

Users First

United Spinal Association

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Wheelchair Seating and Positioning Center


Overcoming Challenges Made IMSA Student More Than Just A Scholar (Daily Herald, November 2014)

Justify It: Standing Frames & Wheelchairs (Mobility Management, June 2014)

RESNA Updates Standing Chair (Mobility Management, June 2014)

The Benefits of Standing: A Clinical View (Mobility Management, June 2014)

RESNA Position on the Application of Wheelchair Standing Devices: 2013 Current State of the Literature

Sitting All Day: Worse for You than You Might Think (NPR, April 2011)

Calorie Burner: How much better is standing up than sitting? (BBC News Magazine, 2013)

Pronk NP, Katz AS, Lowry M, Payfer JR. Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project, 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110323.

Kaye HS, et al., "Mobility Device use in the United States. Disability Statistics Report (14) Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research," 2000.



We will update this page periodically with project news and related interviews.


  • Two engineering students hired as part of RIC's Summer Internship in Engineering and Neuroscience Program successfully completed projects related to the development of our manual standing wheelchair. Alexey Revinski, BS presented at the RIC Summer Internship Poster Session on August 26, 2016. His project focused on developing a standing frame and anti-tipper mechanism for the wheelchair. Revinski is currently an engineering student at Northwestern. He is expected to earn his MS in Mechanical Engeering- Robotics in 2017.
  • Margaret Coats-Thomas evaluated linear drive parameters for seated propulsion in the wheelchair during her summer internship. Coats-Thomas is a graduate of Brown University, where she earned her BS in biomedical engineering. She is currently an MD-PhD student in Northwestern's Medical Scientist Training Program. Read an interview with Coats-Thomas here (PDF file).


Overcoming Challenges Made IMSA Student More Than Just A Scholar (Daily Herald, November 2014)

Interview with CBM Intern Emily Seyforth (August 2014, PDF File)

In-Home Mobility & Measures (2014 RESNA Conference Presentation)

High School Students Help Design Wireless System for Monitoring Mobility (May 2014, PDF File)

Project Staff

RIC's Todd KuikenTodd A. Kuiken, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator. Dr. Kuiken is director of the Center for Bionic Medicine (CBM) within the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. At CBM, Dr. Kuiken leads an interdisciplinary team that includes physicians, prosthetists, therapists, neuroscientists, engineers, software developers, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers. He received his BS in biomedical engineering from Duke University, and his MD and PhD degrees from Northwestern University.

Arun Jayaraman, PT PhD

Arun Jayaraman, PT, PhD, Co-Investigator (Mobility/ADL Sensing). Dr. Jayaraman is Director of the Max Nader Center for Rehabilitation Technologies and Outcomes Research within the Center for Bionic Medicine at the RIC. He received his doctorate in rehabilitation sciences from the University of Florida and completed his post-doctoral training at the RIC. The overarching goal of his research is to inform clinical practice through rigorous investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored outcomes research.

Frank Ursetta, MSFrank Ursetta, MS, Research Engineer II. Frank Ursetta is a Research Engineer within the Center for Bionic Medicine. His main focus is to use his engineering experience to develop rehabilitative technology that is both innovative and practical. He received his BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his MS in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Additional collaborators: Jim Lipsey, MS; Luca Lonini, PhD; Saninder Kaur, MD; Lori McGee Koch; CK Mummidisetty, MS; Jose Ochoa, MS; Jeremy Peshkin

Project Alumni: Manuel Amaro, Timothy Reissman, PhD, Emily Seyforth, BS

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RE5014-02-00). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.