New Wheelchair Climbs Stairs

Published: April 2, 2004

CHICAGO (CBS 2) Imagine a paralyzed person being able to reach something from the top shelf at a grocery store without help or climbing stairs on their own. It’s all possible for some thanks to a new FDA-approved wheelchair called the iBot.

A Plainfield man got his new wheels on Friday. Fourty-three-year-old Mike D’Arcy still has his sense of humor despite losing his ability to stand and walk three years ago in a car accident.

“When you’re confined to a wheelchair you’re 4 feet 4 inches or so tall, and it really works on your psyche to be that short and looking up to everyone all the time,” D’Arcy said.

But through the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, D’Arcy is getting a new high-tech wheelchair called the iBot.

Dean Kamen invented the chair, which easily conquers high curbs.

“Curbs and stairs are like prison bars to somebody in a wheelchair and to somebody with an iBot it’s just a piece of life,” Kamen said.

And, with the wheels that act like slinkies rolling over each other, the iBot even allows D’Arcy to climb stairs.

D’Arcy and his family went to a demonstration of the chair three months ago, and were sold on it.

“From that point on, I just wanted it, I mean at any cost,” D’Arcy said.

But the most important difference to D’Arcy is being able to once again be six-feet-tall, see eye-to-eye with people, and feel like he’s walking as he used to with his family.

“It’s kinda like a magic carpet. You can’t see anything under you. You can’t see the wheels. All you know is you’re floating along and it’s a really unbelievable feeling,” D’Arcy said.

The iBot is expensive — $29,000. Some private insurance companies cover it, but Medicare and Medicaid do not.

It won FDA approval last August.