CRT Technology Showcase

ZIPPIE Sphynx: Giving Families Exactly What They Need

While Complex Rehab Technology wheelchairs can be fine tuned to their users’ needs, there are still groups of underserved consumers… and as a result, underserved families as well.

Sunrise Medical’s new ZIPPIE Sphynx was designed to address the clinical needs, goals, and activities of both.

Transportability in the Real World

ZIPPIE Sphynx in the back of a SUVThe Sphynx has seat widths of 10", 12", 14", 16", and 18". Seat depths go from 10" to 19" standard, including 5" of built-in growth. A 14x14" chair grows to a 19" seat depth without replacement parts, said Kelsey DiGiacomo, Sunrise Medical’s Pediatric Product Manager.

But here’s where the Sphynx gets really interesting: Its weight capacity is 250 lbs., thus accommodating older kids and even adults while maintaining true portability.

In fact, that population of teens and young adults, DiGiacomo said, “was really what drove a lot of the engineering aspects. We’d been hearing from our clinical advisory board, as well as parents who utilize the [ZIPPIE] Voyage and some of our other products, that realistically, transportability is hard to achieve with this type of adaptive stroller or even our pediatric wheelchairs.

“Parents or caregivers of children with disabilities have a lot on their hands, literally. They’re dealing with children who have complex medical support accessories, or they’ve got additional children who need attention. So being able to have something that folds into a standard size, even a compact car-sized trunk, without dissembling all of the seating system really improves not only functionality for the child, but for their family as a whole.”

The Sphynx folds clamshell style in seconds (watch it on the Web site). Seating and accessories stay on the frame, so folding the Sphynx is “something that [a caregiver] can do even with a child in their arms, in a quick, one-step motion,” DiGiacomo said. “That was something our clinical advisory board drove home to us: We don’t want to compromise seating and positioning, but what parents and caregivers want is something they can fold on the fly to get out the door.”

The Sphynx’s transport weight is 30 lbs. “We did want to prioritize the overall weight of the system,” DiGiacomo said. “We’ve heard, It’s great if the frame itself is transportable when you remove the rear wheels or the legrest or the upholstery, but it ends up still being heavy when you think about it as a complete system. So we wanted to make it compact folding, but also as lightweight as we possibly could without compromising strength.”

Dialing in the Best Positioning

The Sphynx offers static tilt settings of 10°, 20°, and 30° “that could be adjusted as the child’s needs change over time,” DiGiacomo noted. “So a child could utilize a 30° seat tilt, but say they undergo scoliosis surgery and have much better trunk support. Being able to have that 10° option — just a quick, almost two-minute adjustment — to upgrade their seat tilt to that 10° position really improves functional access to participation.”

While the tilt isn’t meant to be frequently adjusted — “It’s more to accommodate the child’s needs over time,” DiGiacomo said — caregivers can use recline (85-100°) to reposition as needed. “If they’re in a classroom and they get fatigued, the teacher or clinician could adjust that recline on the fly,” DiGiacomo said. “It provides quick-adjust accommodation for a child who might need the benefit of opening that seat-to-back angle.”


The Sphynx can be configured with more basic or more complex seating.

The Sphynx accommodates a wide range of positioning components, DiGiacomo added: “The voice of the clinician was asking us to have that transportable, almost adaptive stroller-looking frame, but they didn’t want to compromise with just soft, lightweight positioning options. They wanted more complex anterior trunk supports and lower-body supports. So we’ve got trunk supports, pelvic support options, hip guides, upper-extremity support trays with all of our standard upholstery. We have the opportunity to bundle with more individually configured systems, like a JAY back and cushion. That provides a hybrid between something that’s basic, soft and comfortable for kiddos who don’t need as much support. But for kiddos who are more complex, we can completely configure their seating to meet their needs.”

Just What They Want (& Nothing They Don’t)

Angie Kiger, M.Ed., CTRS, ATP/SMS, Sunrise Medical’s Clinical Strategy & Education Manager, said of the Sphynx’s development, “When we started talking to clinicians a few years ago, the conversation was ‘We have a large portfolio; what are we missing? Who’s being underserved?” Teens were mentioned as among the most difficult-to-support populations.

“They’re big,” Kiger explained. “It’s more difficult for Mom and Dad to place them where they need to go. Examples that were brought up were kids on the autism disorder spectrum who have behavioral difficulties, but also have cerebral palsy. They may be lower on the GMFCS [Gross Motor Function Classification System] scale, so they can ambulate short distances. But they can’t go for a long period of time.

“If you get them a tilt-in-space wheelchair, are you limiting their ability to go places with Mom and Dad? Are you limiting people’s perceptions of them? That’s one of the most difficult things for families: You don’t want to look more disabled than you actually are.”

girl sitting in a ZIPPIE Sphynx wheelchairThe Sphynx became a great fit for the real-life family in the new chair’s marketing campaign. The family’s eldest two children — Ariana (pictured) and Fernando — are teens who have been diagnosed with Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation, Type Iq; CDG1Q; Coloboma, Ocular, with Ichthyosis, brain malformations, and endocrine abnormalities.

Ariana has intellectual disabilities, but Kiger, on hand for the photo shoot, described her as “very active, smiley and happy,” adding Ariana’s feet “are always marching.” Ariana’s previous mobility device was an adaptive stroller, but “because of Ariana’s significant movement and her constant marching, she broke the lower-extremity pieces multiple times,” Kiger said.

Ariana’s therapist decided to try an ultralightweight chair next, reasoning that Ariana was capable of some self propulsion and that the therapist could achieve some positioning via the adjustable axle plate. So they tried a QUICKIE 2.

“Mom and Dad were a little disappointed because the QUICKIE 2 is created for someone with independent mobility,” Kiger said. “We can set it up to be dependent, but it’s intended to be [self] propelled. So it’s not nearly as ergonomically correct for families to be pushing.”

Upon hearing about the Sphynx, Ariana’s therapist recommended the family for a test, saying, “Mom and Dad are at a loss; there’s nothing out there for them.”

Then Ariana tried the Sphynx. “Now Mom and Dad can change her position while they’re in the community,” Kiger said. “If they’re out for longer days and she needs to rest a bit, they can recline her. She only sits at 10° static tilt; that’s a good position for her.”

The minimalist Sphynx largely disappears when Ariana is in it. “That’s one of the things Mom says,” Kiger said.

She added that Sunrise intentionally refrains from calling the Sphynx a stroller: “If you look at the definition of stroller, it talks about young children. A lot of times, if people have an intellectual disability, they’re just considered a child. And that’s not okay. If someone is 20 years old, we should not be saying, ‘Let’s go get your stroller.’”

Indeed, the Sphynx has two HCPCS codes: E1161 (adult manual tilt in space) and E1232/1234 (pediatric folding tilt in space, with/without seating).

“The chair that Ariana was using didn’t offer as many positioning options,” Kiger said. “[Therapists] get into battles with families: They all agree they don’t need a full tilt-in-space wheelchair. But then families say, ‘We like this chair because there’s not a lot of stuff on it.’ And the therapist says, ‘But I can’t get her positioned appropriately.’”

The Sphynx gives Ariana exactly what she needs… without adding more tilt that she doesn’t need and that would make her chair larger and harder to transport and maneuver. “The family loved it,” Kiger said.

This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2021 issue of Mobility Management.

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