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IATSL develops assistive technology that is adaptive, flexible, and intelligent, enabling users to participate fully in their daily lives. Learn more about our research

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Projects

CanWheel: Improving wheeled mobility of older adults

Keywords: CanWheel, power wheelchair, mobility, user centred design.

In collaboration with: The University of British Columbia and Vancouver Costal Health Research Institute


Overview of Research

This research is a sub-project of the CanWheel project. CanWheel is a team of clinical researchers who have developed a program of research, including 5 key projects, to provide a comprehensive, systematic and unified approach designed to enhancing the mobility of older adult wheelchair users. The results of these projects will ultimately be used to develop a new collaboratively-controlled wheelchair.

PROJECT I – EVALUATING THE NEEDS & EXPERIENCES OF OLDER ADULTS USING POWER WHEELCHAIRS

This project will evaluate the effectiveness, impact, and relevance of wheeled mobility devices from the perspective of consumers, caregivers, health care providers, policy makers, and funding agencies.

Phase 1 - Interviews

Interviews will be used to:

  • Determine how older adults, caregivers, health care professionals, policy makers, and funding agencies define the technological, social, and physical needs and abilities of individuals aged 50+ with respect to power wheelchairs.
  • Investigate how older adults, caregivers, and health care providers perceive and experience smart wheelchairs and their concomitant influence on social engagement.
Phase 2 - Focus groups

Focus groups will be used to identify the technological needs and abilities of older adults with respect to smart wheelchairs.

Phase 3: Observational studies

Observational studies will be used to observe and assess how well smart wheelchairs work with and for older adults, particularly in novel situations.

PROJECT II – THE NATURAL HISTORY AND MEASUREMENT OF POWER MOBILITY OUTCOMES

This project will describe differences in power mobility over a two-year period among various cohorts of wheelchair users. Nested within this project is a study of the psychometric properties of a toolkit of measures that will advance our knowledge and understanding of essential outcomes for power mobility users. The objectives of this study are to:

  • Describe the variability or natural history of power wheelchair use over a two-year period in cohorts of older adults who use power wheelchairs.
  • Assess the reliability (test-retest, intra-rater and inter-rater) of the power wheelchair outcome toolkit.
  • Assess the validity of the power wheelchair outcome toolkit.
PROJECT V — EFFECTIVENESS OF A WHEELCHAIR SKILLS TRAINING PROGRAM FOR POWER MOBILITY USERS: A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

This project will address the gaps in our understanding of wheelchair skills training, particularly the effectiveness of training in improving wheelchair skills capacity for powered wheelchair users and the impact of skills training on other important outcomes.

The primary objective is to test the hypothesis that powered-wheelchair-using participants who receive wheelchair skills training will improve their post-training total percentage capacity scores on the questionnaire version of the WST (the WST-Q) by at least 25% in comparison with a control group that receives standard care.

Secondary objectives include assessing the effects of age, sex, participant experience and other predictors on WST capacity scores, assessing the retention of benefits and assessing the impact of training on other important outcomes (e.g. injury rate, measures of participation).


Funding

IATSL is a member of the CANWHEEL team. CANWHEEL is a CIHR-funded research program aimed to improve the mobility of older adult wheelchair users by enabling power wheelchair use in those who are normally excluded from use of these devices.


Research Team

Alex Mihailidis, PhD, PEng (University of Toronto)

Rosalie Wang, Post-Doctoral Fellow (University of Toronto)

Bill Miller (UBC)

Laura Hurd Clarke (UBC)

Ronald Kirby (Dalhousie University)

Paula Rushton (Université de Montréal)

Ben Mortenson (Simon Fraser University)

Louise Demers (Université de Montréal)

Claudine Auger (UBC)

Francois Routhier (Université Laval)

Cher Smith (Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre)

Jan Miller Polgar (University of Western Ontario)

Fabrizio Farronato (University of Toronto)