Illinois Man First In Midwest To Own An iBot
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 8, 2004
PLAINFIELD, ILLINOIS--A Plainfield man recently became the first person in the American Midwest to own an iBot 3000 Mobility System, known by many as the "stair-climbing wheelchair", ABC7Chicago disability reporter Karen Meyer reported Thursday.
"I've looked at several other wheelchairs but never a piece of equipment like this that can go up and down steps. It's amazing," said Mike D'arcy, whose new iBot was unveiled last week at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
"You know, you're always looking up at people in day-to-day work areas, at a cocktail party everyone always has to look down at you," he said.
The iBot is considered revolutionary because it can safely climb stairs and curbs, and can bring the user to a full standing position to be eye-to-eye with people who do not use wheelchairs. It also shifts into 4-wheel drive to roll over grassy fields, sandy beaches or just about anywhere the user wants to go.
The iBot, designed by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, balances the user on two sets of rear wheels that lock while lifting the person to an upright position. A system of gyroscopes make it relatively simple for the user to guide the iBot by leaning forward or backward.
The FDA approved the iBot last summer, but required that it be sold only through prescription and that users be trained in its operation. Few insurance companies cover its $29,000 price tag. The manufacturer, Independence Technology, is negotiating with Medicare, Medicaid and other insurers to see if they will cover the iBot as a "medically necessary" expense.
Since the iBot was first introduced in 1999, disability rights advocates have cautioned that the introduction of a stair-climbing wheelchair does not mean that wheelchair ramps, curb cuts and other accessibility features are no longer needed. In fact, the iBot itself has several limitations beyond its sticker price. For example, the device is only available to people who weigh under 250 pounds, can grab a hand-rail to assist themselves up and down stairs, can lean forward or backward, and can operate a touch pad controller.
"Midwest man is first person to own iBot wheelchair" by disability issues reporter Karen Meyer (ABC7Chicago.com)
The Independence iBot 3000 Mobility System (Independence Now)