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Vol. 37 No. 3, May/June 2000
Pages 353 - 360

Adequacy of power wheelchair control interfaces for persons with severe disabilities: A clinical survey

Linda Fehr, MS; W. Edwin Langbein, PhD; Steven B. Skaar, PhD

Hines VA Hospital, Rehabilitation Research and Development Program, Research Service, Hines, IL 60141; University of Notre Dame, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Notre Dame, IN 46556

Abstract — The extreme difficulty with which persons with severe disabilities have been taught to maneuver a power wheelchair has been described in case studies, and anecdotal evidence suggests the existence of a patient population for whom mobility is severely limited if not impossible given currently available power wheelchair control interfaces. Since our review of the literature provided little evidence either in support or refutation of the adequacy of existing power wheelchair control interfaces, we surveyed 200 practicing clinicians, asking them to provide information about their patients and to give their impressions of the potential usefulness of a new power wheelchair navigation technology. Significant survey results were:

We believe these results indicate a need, not for more innovation in steering interfaces, but for entirely new technologies for supervised autonomous navigation.

Key words: activities of daily living, automation, disabled persons, nervous system diseases, robotics, spinal cord injuries, wheelchairs.

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