Greg Halliday & Matthew Dixon

How do People Use Their Wheelchairs, with and without the SmartDrive? Exploring Bout Mobility Patterns Among Canadians

Authors: Greg Halliday, Matthew Dixon, Dr. Ben Mortenson, & Dr. Bonita Sawatzky

Introduction. Wheeled mobility devices enable independence in social and work engagements and facilitate increased access to one’s community. Not all individuals who rely upon wheeled mobility have the physical capacity necessary to operate a manual wheelchair and must therefore rely upon external assistance to mobilize. The SmartDrive MX+ (SD) is one example of a power assist mobility device designed to bridge the gap between power and manual wheelchair mobility. This device is lightweight and attaches to the rear of a manual wheelchair. To date, little research has been done to explore the mobility patterns and experiences of manual wheelchair users while using the SD device. Objectives. The primary objective of this study is to explore bout mobility patterns of manual wheelchair users pre and post provision of the SD. Additionally this study aims to explore the experiences of manual wheelchair users while using the SD device. Methods. Researchers recruited six participants to take part in a one week study that explored the use of the SD. Participants were experienced wheelchair users with a range of diagnoses. The wheelchair was instrumented with an accelerometer, seat sensor pad/data logger, a global positioning system, and the SD. The participants were trained on use of the smart drive.  After one week of use the participants returned to the research facility and underwent a semi-structured interview aimed at exploring each user’s personal experience with using the SD. A Prompted Recall Interview (PRI) was also administered to help identify location and level of participation in their community. Results. One of the emerging themes of our study is that the SD was both a blessing and a curse. Some participants reported that the device enabled greater access to their communities and requested an extension to their study, while others found difficult to manage and returned the equipment after only a few days.