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Wheelchair users interact differently with the world than people who can stand. This doesn't only have consequences for their physical health but also their mental health. To help wheelchair users gain more independence, Gabriel Costa and Rivelino Montenegro developed the EZER, a standing wheelchair, with their startup J58. They share the story of their innovative journey. 

This story was first published in the Next Icons Magazine. You can read the entire magazine here.

The world has become increasingly accessible for wheelchair users. Why is it important that they can stand? 

Rivelino: “The inspiration for the EZER comes from the experience of my friend and co-founder Augusto Hosanna. He was a high-level volleyball player, sidelined by a car accident in Brazil. His situation touched me so much that it inspired me to start J58. When I met Gabriel at a conference, I knew he was the missing link regarding engineering know-how because he shared our vision. Sitting all day in a wheelchair causes many unwanted problems. It reduces the production of cells, makes your bones weaker, causes skin issues, and the list of health risks goes on. When we enable wheelchair users to stand, we strengthen people - both physically and emotionally.”

Gabriel: “Aside from the plethora of physical consequences of constant sitting, there are also emotional consequences. When you’re in a wheelchair, people literally look down on you. But they don’t want to feel special; they just want to belong. We allow wheelchair users to be part of the group so they can reach the supermarket's top shelf and enjoy concerts, for example. Of course, our standing wheelchair doesn’t solve everything, but it definitely contributes to the overall well-being of wheelchair users.” 

What does that mean for the daily lives of wheelchair users?

Rivelino: “The simple fact that you can stand gives you strength and independence. I always associated ‘independence’ with being alone. However, one of the first potential customers we interviewed mentioned that it meant that she could enjoy a concert with friends instead of being alone on the wheelchair plateau. It meant that she could be with the people she wanted to be. And we realized that it also meant you could get the job you want because you can stand if needed. It means that people can fit in with society.”

Gabriel: “I remember another beautiful moment with one of the people who tested our wheelchair. He had been in a wheelchair for 18 years, and he could finally stand up to kiss his wife. That moment was when the wheelchair became more than just a mechanical project for me. It became something that felt like the start of a revolution.”


Your wheelchair has a lot of impact on people’s lives, without a doubt. But standing wheelchairs are not a new invention. Why is the EZER different than other standing wheelchairs out there?

Rivelino: “The iPhone was innovative, even though it wasn’t the first smartphone. It made a big impact on society. That’s how we see ourselves. Yes, there are standing wheelchairs out there, but usually, they have an electrical mechanism. This makes them bulky, heavy, and expensive. Those wheelchairs are often used as an extra chair, which takes up a lot of space in the house. We want one mechanical chair for everything.”

Gabriel: “Those electric standing wheelchairs are, ironically enough, not accessible for many people. They’re expensive, complex, and slow; you can’t use them as your regular chair. That’s why we focus on developing a mechanical standing wheelchair without electronics. It’s just ‘click and up’. If something should break, you could get it fixed at a bike shop, so to speak. And because it’s lightweight, you could easily put it in a car to take it with you.”

Is the power in its simplicity?

Rivelino: “Yes, it’s innovative because it’s simple. Innovation is not always developing something new but solving a clear problem in a simple way. It just takes one look to see what our product does, and I love that. With that simplicity, we could make wheelchairs sexy. That’s not usually a word you’d use to describe a medical device, but we’d like to break through that stigma.”

Gabriel: “Electrical cars weren’t sexy at first, either, but Tesla changed that. It would be great if we could change how people look at wheelchairs and its users. It’s the next generation of wheelchairs, and in the long run, we want to develop other products that help differently-abled people gain more independence, such as exoskeletons. For now, we focus on the standing wheelchair. We realize we could be at the forefront of positive change in the world, and we’re very motivated to contribute to that change.”

"Innovation is also about solving a clear problem in a simple way."

Gabriel Costa


More about

J58 develops the EZER, a standing wheelchair that allows users to easily get up. This innovative design improves the physical and mental health of wheelchair users by offering them greater independence and better social integration. The EZER is lightweight, easy to use and affordable, which sets it apart from expensive, complex electric standing wheelchairs. J58 wants to improve the daily lives of wheelchair users worldwide with their technology.

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