Wheelchair Evaluation

Background

There is an enormous unmet need for wheelchairs for people living in poverty. In the rush to fill this gap, many organizations provide products which, based on anecdotal data collected by people in the field, do not meet the needs of the end user and may even lead to dangerous complications such as pressure sores.  The purpose of the wheelchair evaluation is to primarily compare technical performance of eight wheelchairs which are distributed widely in the developing world, using information gathered from low cost sensor technology and surveys. The principle goal is to provide information to donors, development agencies, ministries and programs to help them make better decisions to meet the needs of people who need a wheelchair, and to provide information to people with disabilities so that they can advocate on their own behalf. A secondary goal is to inform wheelchair designers and manufacturers about options for improving their products in the coming years.
 
Some questions CITE will seek to answer in order to meet that goal include:

  • How far do people travel each day when they have wheelchair X? 
  • What kinds of terrain do they cross? 
  • What are the effects of distance traveled and terrain on wheelchair reliability?
  • How often are wheelchairs propelled by assistants versus self-propelled?
  • What activities in the community are important to wheelchair riders, and how well do the wheelchairs assist them in performing these activities? 

The majority of our focus will be on suitability, but CITE will also study the factors affecting scalability (characterizing supply chains and total cost at point of distribution), and sustainability (effect on activity which may influence individual and family income , decrease in health care expenditure). CITE is partnering with United Cerebral Palsy's Consolidating Logistics for Assistive Technology Supply & Provision (CLASP) Project who will be distributing wheelchairs to partner organizations who fit people to wheelchairs in accordance with guidelines published by the World Health Organization.  Field data collection will take place in Indonesia working together with researchers from Universitas Gadjah Mada and local disability organizations UCP Roda Untuk Kemanusiaan and Puspadi Bali. We will also work with Human Energy Research Laboratory (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh for laboratory testing of wheelchairs, and will use our data to assist the International Society of Wheelchair Professionals in their ongoing efforts to make laboratory tests which better predict field failure.

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