Vol. 37 No. 5, September/October 2000
Pages 565 - 572

Abstract - Development of frontal impact crashworthy wheelchair seating design criteria using computer simulation

Gina E Bertocci, PhD; Stephanie Szobota, BS; DongRan Ha, BS; Linda van Roosmalen, MS

University of Pittsburgh, Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, Pittsburgh, PA 15260


Abstract — When designing wheelchairs for use as motor vehicle seats, special design criteria must be followed to assure the crash safety of the wheelchair user. Failure of seating system components under crash loading conditions could lead to serious injury or fatality. In this study, seat and seat-back loading in a frontal crash are explored using computer simulation techniques. A previously validated simulation model consisting of a powerbase wheelchair and a seated 50th-percentile male test dummy subjected to a 20g/30mph frontal impact were used for the study. Since such a wide range of seating systems are available, parametric analyses were conducted to evaluate the influence of surface stiffness and seat-back angle on wheelchair seat and back loading. Seat loading varied with stiffness, ranging from 819-3,273 lb, while seat-back loading was found to be between 1,427-2,691 lb, depending upon back stiffness and recline angle.

Key words: wheelchair crashworthiness, wheelchair design, wheelchair injury prevention, wheelchair safety, wheelchair seating.

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