Frontiers of Digital Health: Wheelchairs, sensors and bridging the accessibility divide
Wheelchairs are an extension of a person’s body which enables them to access more places and do more of the things they would like to do. Despite advances in design, there remain a number of challenges in both the design and the monitoring of wheelchair use. Problems range from provision to injury through use. Self-propulsion of a wheelchair is preferred where possible but the loads applied to the upper limbs when getting around every-day environments is challenging. This leads to shoulder injuries in particular, which are costly to healthcare providers and can be devastating to the wheelchair user. When carers push people it is they who get injured with a high incidence of pack pain in particular.
One of the main challenges is the three-way fit between the person, the technology and the environment. Over a third of wheelchair users find the roads outside their homes to steep as an example. Through a number of projects we have been looking to quantify how people push their wheelchairs in everyday settings, building models which link clinically relevant parameters with terrain type.
We are now making the wheelchair part of the Internet of Things so that accessibility maps can be automatically created as people push around an urban environment. This talk will explore these technologies and the challenges we have had in developing them.
About the speaker Dr Catherine Hollerway
I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science based in UCLIC who is passionate about the design of usable assitive technologies. I am happiest when making things work well, especially when these things are useful to people with disabilities.
My first degree was in Industrial Engineering from the National university of Ireland, Galway. I graduated in 2004 and then worked as an R&D engineer with Medtronic designing angioplasty balloons before deciding to undertake a PhD at UCL in 2006. My PhD focussed on developing methods for measuring accessibility and mobility of wheelchair users out of doors. This began a theme of my research which is measuring clinical parameters in the wild. From this research the SenseWheel was conceived as an idea which was recently spun out as a community interest company called Movement Metrics.