25 Jan 2023

From learning to walk to enjoying a coffee with colleagues, e-mobility has no age limit

Studies show that all children - with or without a handicap - follow the same developmental process along the developmental stages. One key: children's wheelchairs. These will be presented at REHAB 2023.

A child of about one year sits in a yellow mini wheelchair. The child sits on a seat and leans with its back against it. It has its hands on a small table, to which a joystick is attached that is intended for steering. The feet are on a platform. There are castors attached to the platform.
The Explorer Mini from Permobil helps even the smallest children to be independent. (Picture: permobil GmbH)

When learning motor capabilities, being able to sit freely is a an important step in a child’s physical development. Neuromuscular support and posture mechanisms function as the child intends, therefore freeing up the arms and hands. This allows children to independently perform actions like using a toy, feeding and interacting with others. It is here that support with living aids becomes decisive in helping the child become and feel capable.

Straightening up important for development

As the child discovers their environment, they reach for objects and climb up furniture. In doing so, they achieve the next major development step. Standing up straight allows the internal organs, bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles to develop fully, as well as functions like breathing, digestion and circulation.

Walking is another milestone in a child’s motoric and cognitive development, as well as their independence. Children with disabilities need a suitable wheelchair early on to encourage this development. These are much more than just smaller versions of adult wheelchairs. They grow with the child and have several additional functions.

Customise wheelchairs

Willy Hagelstein is a wheelchair user himself and a mobility advocate at Sorg Rollstuhltechnik, a specialist for children’s wheelchairs. He is convinced: “These light children’s wheelchairs can be fully and precisely adjusted to the child’s size and needs. This is the kind of aid that children with restricted mobility need today from as early as 18 months. The reason this is so important is that this is the age where healthy children learn to walk. Providing a wheelchair can therefore help prevent disabled children from falling behind in their development.”

Lightweight wheelchairs like SORG’s Mio Carbon are made from sturdy aluminium and are best suited to children who struggle to exert physical force but still want to propel their wheelchair themselves.

Ein etwa zweijähriges Kind sitzt in einem orangefarbenen Rollstuhl. Das Kind hat dünnes blondes Haar. Es hat beide Händen an den Griffen der Rollstuhlräder.
The children's wheelchairs from Sorg Rollstuhtechnik can be individually adapted to each child. From the age of 18 months, the adolescents can be provided with the wheelchairs.(picture: Sorg Rollstuhltechnik)

All these development steps are accompanied by adults, ideally in a safe environment. It is normal for children to suffer setbacks as they learn these new abilities. From a neuroscientific perspective, repeating these motions over and over is enormously important to cognitive development.

But there are now also smaller electric wheelchair models available for children who cannot propel a manual wheelchair. Some feature playful and colourful designs that make them look like normal children’s walkers. Only upon closer inspection does one notice the small joystick. Other wheelchairs designed for larger children are heavier and sturdier.

The benefits of giving children an electric wheelchair to aid their development early on often outweigh arguments made by cost bearers like the risk of injury or hazards in traffic. The responsibility for a child’s safety, whether they are disabled or not, lies with the parents. They must provide a safe environment in which children can learn how to use the wheelchairs.

Electric wheelchairs can be configured to match the child’s needs and capabilities. Special controls let them move safely, while the seating position can be adjusted precisely all the way to a standing position. The smaller variants feature priority switching via an independent controller or even allow complete control by accompanying adults.

This lets the children be fully involved right from the start. They can actively play with other children at kindergarten, go to school and interact with siblings and classmates.

A girl of about one year sits in a yellow children's wheelchair. The girl's hands are resting on a table connected to the wheelchair, while the girl is touching a joystick attached to the table. The girl smiles at the camera. In the background, an adult woman and an adult man as well as a light brown dog can be seen. The adults are petting the dog and can be seen out of focus in the background.
With the Explorer Mini, the Permobil company replaces baby walkers for very young "walkers" and enables severely limited children to experience the world independently. (picture: permobil GmbH)

will showcase several specialists for manual and electric children’s wheelchairs, with various products available to try out. Therapists from MEYRA will be on hand to advise parents about early-years mobility. The Explorer Mini from Permobil replaces walkers for very young children, allowing even those with severe disabilities to explore the world on their own.

“When a student is able to celebrate their graduation standing with a glass of bubbly and their friends, that’s when you know a wheelchair with standing aid was a good investment”, says Ulrich Maschkow from Vassili. He is proud of how the Italian brand’s HiLo MPRO wheelchair perfectly combines activity and function.

“We spent three years developing this product. In that time, we combined a lightweight active wheelchair with an electric standing aid that can be operated manually. This frees up the user’s other hand to drink a coffee with their colleagues, for example. That’s obviously before we even get to the psychological benefits and metabolic stimulation that come from standing.”

More information about the companies exhibiting at REHAB can be found here: