Applying the Balans Seating System to Wheelchair Design

Need for Alternative Wheelchair Seating Systems

Wheelchairs have had the same basic design configuration for over fifty years. Though wheelchair frames are now made from lightweight materials such as composites, modern wheelchair seating still consists of the same sling-back upholstery used in older models. As most wheelchairs serve more as seating than mobility devices, a wheelchair used primarily as a chair could take advantage of principles employed in state of the art seating systems for office personnel.

Applying the Balans Seating System to Wheelchair Design

The Balans seating system uses knee pads and a sharply tilted seat to promote good back posture. Curved knee pads and a seat cushion with significant pelvic support were added to a Balans chair to accommodate people with spinal cord injuries. Testing determined that people without feeling in their legs could sit in such a system comfortably for up to six hours.

The prototype wheelchair constructed from the Balans design has three sitting postures: a forward or desk work posture, a neutral balanced posture, and a semi-reclined seating posture. The semi-reclined posture allows a rider to climb curbs up to four inches high. Casters located below the knee pads and behind the seat stabilize the chair\'s position. The innovations of the Balans wheelchair represent significant departures from traditional wheelchair designs.

Current Project Status

The Balans wheelchair prototype is currently located at the University of Virginia. Plans are being made to fabricate a standard four wheel configuration Balans wheelchair platform.

Image of a balans chair.

Acknowledgments

This project was sponsored by Beneficial Designs, Inc. and the University of Virginia Rehabilitation Engineering Center.