"But, I Don't Want/Need a Power Wheelchair": Toward Accessible Power Assistance for Manual Wheelchairs

Ramirez DZ Morgado, Catherine Holloway
in ASSETS '17 Proceedings of the 19th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, Conference paper (text)


Power assist devices help manual wheelchair users to propel their wheelchair thus increasing their independence and reducing the risk of upper limb injuries due to excessive use. These benefits can be invaluable for people that already have upper limb joint pain and reduced muscular strength. However, it is not clear if the way that assistance is provided by such devices is what manual wheelchair users need and expect. 12 manual wheelchair users were interviewed to understand: the situations in which they find it difficult to propel their wheelchairs; situations they considered paramount to have power assistance; their experience or knowledge of power assist devices; and likes and dislikes of commercially available power assist devices. Finally, they were asked to comment on their ideal form factor of a power assist device. Users have suggested improvements of the devices' accessibility and visualized new ways in which they could interact with the technology. These interactions involve "chairable" devices independent from, but not excluding, wearable devices and mobile applications. We have identified the need of monitoring emotions and the need for designing an open source do-it-yourself wheelchair propelling assistance device which we believe is required equally in developed and in developing countries.