Looking for help in understanding the challenges people face everyday in wheelchairs. — Scope | Disability forum
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Looking for help in understanding the challenges people face everyday in wheelchairs.

Hello, I am product design student at The University of the Arts London Central Saint Martins (http://www.arts.ac.uk/csm/courses/undergraduate/ba-product-design/) currently working to improve the experience of using a wheelchair, in collaboration with the Royal Society of the Arts and Disrupt Disability, an open source Library of designs, to aid in wheelchair mobility. The reason why I have decided to do project is because I wish to try change perceptions of wheelchairs and the people who use them through thoughtful design. Im looking for wheelchair uses keen to be actively involved in the project helping me understand what challenges people face in everyday life in a wheelchair. I feel it would be very insightful and interesting if you could help me learn about these challenges, particularly how you personally might have overcome some of these. I’m personally interested in problems people face when using a self propelled wheelchair. However I’d be very grateful for any response and if wanted we could work together on tackling these problems through clever design lead thinking and finalising on an end product which helps solve theses problems.  

I really hope the community can help me with this project 
Many thanks  Tom


  • Mr_Ry
    Mr_Ry Member Posts: 1 Listener
    hello tom22 tell me more.
  • mossycow
    mossycow Member Posts: 485 Pioneering
    Hi there,  I've already replied to a few threads like this.  Are you the same thread starter or are you someone new? 
  • mossycow
    mossycow Member Posts: 485 Pioneering
    I would be keen to be involved.  I think there are several factors affecting me.  I have chronic pain and weakness in my upper body.  I can stand for around 30 seconds and I use a wheelchair outside the house.  (I'd like to inside but imposible) 

    I use a manual and power chair. 

    I think there are issues in terms of chair function.  Chairs need to be as adaptable as possible so you get a great fit.  Seat height  depth etc etc very important.  Speed,  efficiency of arm energy to chair movement etc.  How comfortable for someone else to push and get in car boots and/or on trains busses etc. 

    But also,  the concept of 'sat down living'.  How to reach stuff,  where to eat,  how to hold things when your hands are controlling wheelchair,  holding food,  camera, phone,  writing on something. Bags,  how to carry shopping NOT inaccessible on back of wheelchair.  Warmth in winter,  protecting hands... 

    Then there is the anesthetic and visual impact of chair.  Can it be personal like clothes,  can it be part of my identity which can be very important when life changes quickly and ones new identity is being discovered. 

    Just my thoughts
  • Tom22
    Tom22 Member Posts: 2 Listener
    edited February 2017

    Hi @mossycow and @Mr_Ry

    Thank you for your replies its much appreciated.

    I am a new thread maker however I work closely with Alex who I believe has posted a similar thread with has been really insightful for us. However the reason why I have posted another thread is because I wish to learn more about some of things you have highlighted mossycow. Particularly how we could tackle how to reduce upper body pain and gain more efficiency of arm energy to chair movement.  

    I have read through several research papers on the short and long term physical effects of using a self propelled wheelchair and the disadvantages of using a push rim. Through my research I have found several ways people have tried to tackle these problems using a lever propulsion system (http://www.mobilitycare.net.au/buy/nudrive-air/) which is designed to spread the energy needed to the back and chest muscles, a much larger muscle group then the arm muscles. 

    However this brings me onto the next point with is cost. These lever propulsion systems cost several thousand pounds which is just an extortionate amount. I believe cost shouldn't be a barrier in helping people feel more comfortable in a wheelchair which is why I wish to design something which can be open source and free for anyone to download the plans off the internet.

    3D printing over the past few years has become a lot more accessible allowing people to send files to local workshops to build parts at a much lower cost. Taking this into consideration I believe it is very possible to design a lever system with a 3D printer friendly mechanism with doesn't use a complicated ratchet like the thousand pound products out there. Meaning the final designed product would be low cost, accessible for all and help distribute the work load across the upper body relieving pain and making the user feel more comfortable.   

    I have thought of several ways to achieve this which is why I would love for the community to help me with this project. I have drawn up some designs and would be very grateful if anyone would wish to meet up and have a discussion about the project, helping me highlight areas I would need to look at to create a successful design.  

    I currently live in Kings Cross London so would be happy travel to you or pay for your expenses to Kings Cross 

    If you both have any questions or if anyone else does please don't hesitate to ask. 

    Many thanks again 


  • anaqi
    anaqi Member Posts: 52 Courageous
    Where do I begin?

    The first problem for many people with mobility problems is actually getting a wheelchair.  Unless you are para/tetra is can be difficult to get a wheelchair from the NHS.  In some areas if you can walk at all (many wheelchair users can stand or walk a couple of steps) then you don't qualify for a wheelchair.  then if you do get a wheelchair they may give you the most cost effective one rather than the one that best meets your needs.  This can cause serious problems for the user, from not being able to propel the chair independently or suffering pain and injury through incorrect seating position.  Wheelchairs are incredibly expensive, buying your own can cost as much as a decent second hand car.

    Going outdoors with a wheelchair can be a challenge.  The world is not flat and smooth, even a 1" high curb can cause problems.  Uneven and rough surfaces make for an uncomfortable journey, including the textured paving to aid partially sighted people.  Your hands can get wet and dirty in bad weather and  you have to be extra vigilant for dog mess.  

    Getting on a bus is a challenge (Google wheelchair vs buggy!), as is getting a taxi.  If you want to go on a train you need to give them 24 hours notice and it's a good idea to telephone the assistance line of the company who you intend to travel with so they can try and arrange someone to help you on and off the train.  You can't book disabled train tickets or assistance online.  Forget travelling on the tube, there are very few accessible stations, and some are only accessible for transfers from one line to another.

    Transferring into a car can be a challenge, as is storing your wheelchair in the car.  You can get Motability vehicles fitted with hoists but these are quite expensive.  You can also get wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVS) but again these are expensive.  Expect to pay at least £3K in advance payment.  If you use your own car you'll need to park in a disabled bay in the car park but these are not exclusively for use by wheelchair users, some older people think they have an automatic right to a Blue disabled parking badge and many spaces are abused by people without a badge.  If the disabled spaces are all full up then you have to find somewhere else to park with extra space so you can transfer from your car seat to your wheelchair.  You risk anger and abuse from parents of young children if you dare to park in a parent and child space.

    The world is strange when you're sitting down and everyone else is standing up.  It's difficult to reach things, tills and bars are often too high to reach and it can get very claustrophobic in a crowd of people standing.  You can get wheelchairs that will raise you up to the same height of people standing but they are very expensive.  Shops can be packed so full of rails, shelving and baskets that they are impossible to get around without physically moving things out of the way.  Shops often have extra display baskets of goods at the checkout which get in the way when you're trying to pay for your shopping.

    Restaurants, bars and many public places are not accessible and it can be challenging trying to find a wheelchair accessible toilet.  If there is one it may also be used as a storage cupboard for mops and cleaning products.

    On top of all of this you have to deal with people's attitudes to you.  Some people are completely ignorant, some will treat you like you're mentally retarded and others go so far out of their way trying to be helpful that it's actually unhelpful!  You might get people trying to cure you or pray for you which can be difficult to deal with.  
  • mossycow
    mossycow Member Posts: 485 Pioneering
    Agree with above. 

    NuDrive looks interesting,  especially as getting hands dirty in a big problem. 

    Something I think should never considered is the overall body of wheelchair wearer.  For example my arms and hands and back, shoulders are all weak... But my legs are unaffected. 

    In terms of society attitudes.... More difficult to fix.  Though it's great to hear of people researching into it. 

  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
    Comment from @GeoffBosworth195661

    "Hello @Tom22 it was a few years last time I gave a talk and lecture at The University of the arts London Saint Martin. Now I have a question that I have asked and many have unfortunately could not solve. I am severely blind deaf issues hip down paralysed my two objectives are without sight I need someone with me so my independence goes. The second is my hands and arms are weak and very little feelings, this causes problems when going up bank , They are my main issues then when it comes to curbs steps that is obstacles of no go areas where I most of the time need to go but can't with going partly around the town. My hobbies which was active was outdoors in terrain but this again is a  wish come true if this was easy for the pusher. If knew the area well and the wheel chair had sensors on what route it is programmed for then this would be great. If cars can do it hands free why not wheelchairs?"
    Senior online community officer
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @GeoffBosworth195661 I have copied your response in this post.  For future replies, type in the box below and click Post Reply.
    Senior online community officer
  • GeoffBosworth195661
    GeoffBosworth195661 Member Posts: 161 Pioneering
    edited February 2017
    Hi @Sam_Scope If it helps with wheel chairs users then this is a move forward.


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