Electronics: Controlling Much More Than Power Chairs


Invacare Corp.’s LiNX

The days of an electronics system operating just a power chair are long gone. Today’s electronics are expected to do much more… and they’re answering the call in a big way that gives consumers more control over their environment than ever.

ALS & Maintaining Control

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is among the most challenging diagnoses that complex rehab technology clinicians and providers see. ALS can render clients unable to walk, talk, carry out mobility-related activities of daily living, or breathe on their own, and can do so with staggering swiftness.

Today’s power chair electronics, however, can give control back to clients, according to Alisa Brownlee, ATP, CAPS, an Assistive Technology Specialist/consultant for the ALS Association’s national office.


Permobil’s Bluetooth iDevice Module

For that reason, Brownlee chose Environmental Control Units (ECUs) as 2018 Best Picks.

“The Best Picks for folks with ALS are the integrated ECU components in the electronics of the power wheelchair,” she said. “These ECUs enable people to operate their computers, speech-generating devices, smart phones, and tablets via their joystick or other driving mechanisms. ECUs give people with ALS easy access to their everyday electronics with very little hassle!”

Many Ways to Achieve Success

ECUs or equivalent systems all have the same goal: to give power chair users the opportunity to stay more connected to and in greater control of their world. But power chair manufacturers have different ways of achieving that result.


Quantum Rehab’s Q-Logic 3 with Enhanced Display

For example, the R-net Advanced Joystick on Sunrise Medical’s Quickie power chairs offers flexible programming opportunities so providers can customize a system to a client’s particular needs.

Quantum Rehab provides environmental control by offering “Bluetooth standard on the Q-Logic 3 EX hand control,” said Mark Smith, GM of public relations. “This allows mouse emulation and operation of smartphones and tablets. For complete ECU — fans, TVs, etc. — the Enhanced Display is added, as it contains the infrared technology.”

Invacare Corp. has a number of ways to give clients more control over their environments, said Lisa Rotelli, Director of Adaptive Switch Laboratories (ASL). “The [Invacare] LiNX platform, with systems that have a LiNX 400 joystick or 500 Display included, is an accessibility program that will connect up to 10 devices without restrictions, which means any combinations of mouse and switch control on IOS or Android devices,” she noted. “ASL’s Atom Technology has Bluetooth, which connects to ASL accessories; 557-3 will allow connection to a Augmentative/Alternative Communication device or anything that takes a mono jack plug, like a leg bag emptier or door opener.”


Sunrise Medical’s Advanced Joystick

And in the case of Permobil, Melissa Bourke, Director of Market Development, Business Region Americas, said, “Permobil power wheelchairs do not have a built-in ECU per se. However, we do offer features such as built-in Bluetooth, which allows a user to use their wheelchair drive control to operate their smartphones. With the advancement of smart home technologies, consumers today can control household appliances (lights, music, thermostats, etc.) through apps or wireless (Bluetooth or WiFi) connection from their smartphones. As the wheelchair can be set up to control the smartphone, this then provides users a degree of environmental control without the need in many cases for a stand-alone, traditional type of Environmental Control Unit.”

Versatility and wide ranges of choices for clients, clinicians and providers? Sounds like the definition of a Best Pick.

This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Mobility Management.

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