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Propelling a wheelchair in the pedestrian environment: how do people cope with slopes and obstacles?

Holloway, C; (2010) Propelling a wheelchair in the pedestrian environment: how do people cope with slopes and obstacles? In: (Proceedings) 12th International Conference on Transport for Elderly and Disabled People.

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Abstract

Propelling a wheelchair along a pavement is complicated by the presence of transverse slopes. These slopes aid surface water drainage, but also cause the wheelchair to turn towards the road. The force necessary to counter this downward turning moment may be a contributing factor to shoulder injury for manual wheelchair users. The current limit for transverse slopes in the U.K., U.S. and many other countries is 2.5%. This is mainly to enable ease of access for manual wheelchair users. However, recent research in the U.S. suggests this limit should be increased to 4% in all cases (K Kockelman, Zhao, and Blanchard-Zimmerman 2001). The purpose of this study was to see how young able bodied people coped when pushing a wheelchair over varying transverse slopes and to see how wide pavements need to be so that wheelchair users can safely avoid obstacles, especially when there is a transverse slope. Twelve inexperienced young able bodied people were asked to propel themselves along flat, standard (2.5%) and steep (4%) transversely sloping footways. The experiments took place at the Pedestrian Accessibility Mobility Environment Laboratory (PAMELA) at University College London. Two experienced wheelchair users also took part in the experiment so that we could see if different strategies were employed by them when propelling along the pavements. The ‘Maximum Push Force’ of the users was also recorded as the peak force produced when the wheelchair was restrained from moving. The wheelchair had a SmartWheel positioned on the person’s non-dominant side, and the path taken by the wheelchair was also recorded. The SmartWheel was used to measure the forces on the handrim of the wheelchair and the number of pushes taken by the user. The data will be analysed to see if there are differences in the following: velocity of the wheelchair, left and right push rim forces, number and cadence of pushes and path taken. It is thought that as the slope increases the amount of force on one side of the wheelchair will be increased while the opposite side will be reduced, and in some cases braking with this side will have to occur to keep the wheelchair moving in a straight line. It is also thought a wider path will be required when avoiding an obstacle on the sloped paths compared to the flat path and that in general it will be necessary to push more frequently on the sloped terrain than on the flat to prevent the wheelchair from turning down slope. All of the forces generated will be compared to the maximum force the person was capable of producing when the wheelchair was restrained from moving. The conclusions will be based on how close the participants came to their maximum push strength when pushing on the sloped pavements. A conclusion on path widths will also be made based on the path taken by the occupants, which initially look a lot wider on the 4% slope.

Type:Proceedings paper
Title:Propelling a wheelchair in the pedestrian environment: how do people cope with slopes and obstacles?
Event:12th International Conference on Transport for Elderly and Disabled People
Location:Hong Kong
Dates:2010-06-02 - 2010-06-04
Keywords:Accessibility, Wheelchair, slope gradient
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

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