October 16, 2013 at 7:27 AM
BRIDGEPORT TOWNSHIP, MI — Saginaw County’s The Standing Co., which manufactures SuperStand wheelchairs, might be featured on the Discovery Channel by the TV series “Health Heroes.”
A production crew from Grand Rapids-based West Coast Media visited the company, at 5848 Dixie Highway in Bridgeport Township on Oct. 10 to shoot footage and conduct interviews.
“They had a feeling that this could be a heck of a story,” said The Standing Co. Vice President Ray Maczik.
Unlike a traditional wheelchair whose user is in a seated position, the SuperStand wheelchair allows the user to stand while still supported.
“Here you’re looking at a guy or a gal, young or old, sitting in a wheelchair, and to see them stand up, it’s mind-blowing,” Maczik said.
According to the company's website, standing wheelchairs make it easier for people who use wheelchairs to do a variety of everyday things that many people take for granted, including use top shelves, swing a golf club, change a light bulb, stretch or cook on a stove. There also are health benefits that come from standing frequently, company officials say. The Standing Co. employs 15 people, five of whom are wheelchair users, Maczik said. He declined to say what the company's gross revenue is, but said, “sales are growing.” The company offers three models: the manual standing wheelchair, the half-power standing wheelchair and the full-power standing wheelchair. “We are the only American manufacturer of a manual standing wheelchair, and we’re the only people in the world to make this hybrid, or half-powered wheelchair,” Maczik said. “They're not just made in America. They’re made right here in Saginaw (County).” Chris Moran is the service manager at The Standing Co. He uses a standing wheelchair. “I was in a traditional wheelchair for six years,” Moran said, and had pressure ulcers, depression and reconstructive surgery. But everything changed for him after learning about the standing wheelchair. “I've had a healthy life ever since,” he said. “I haven't been hospitalized in the past 10 years, 12 years.” President David Maczik, Ray Maczik's brother, founded the company in 1990. David Maczik said standing wheelchairs start at about $13,000, but most people who need them don't pay out of pocket. Depending on circumstances, insurance, Medicaid, workers' compensation or fundraisers cover the bill. Medicare does not cover the cost of a standing wheelchair, he said. “It's really a life-changer for a lot of people,” David Maczik said. “It's unfortunate that our government or Medicare doesn't see that. We're petitioning them to change that.” A hallway inside the company's Bridgeport Township location is lined with photos of people working and doing the things they love to do while using standing wheelchairs. “There are a lot of jobs where standing is integral to the performance of it, and if you can't do it, you're going to lose your job,” David Maczik said. “And if it's a soft economy, that's really much harder then for a disabled person to get employment.” Moran said there are social benefits, too.
“When somebody's looking down at you, talking to you ... they feel sorry for you, but they really don't want to tell you that,” he said. “But when I come wheeling up in my standing chair and stand up, they're like, 'Wow, I feel as though I can talk to you as a regular human being. I'm not feeling sorry for you because you're able to stand. You're able to look at me eye-to-eye.'” Brian Culver, president and CEO of Kalamazoo-based All American Roll Models, was at The Standing Co. to participate in an on-camera interview for the TV segment. All American Roll Models is a nonprofit corporation that provides support services for people with disabilities. When asked how using a standing wheelchair has changed his life, Culver replied, “I don't even know how to explain that. It's dramatic.” There’s no guarantee that The Standing Co. will be featured on the TV show, but David Maczik is excited about the possibility.“That would be terrific,” he said. “The frustration of a small company is that people don't know about you. I mean, it's a tremendous idea. Almost everybody in a wheelchair would want to stand up, but people don't know about it.” The company's website is www.thestandingcompany.com.