Wheelchairs have come a long way

Behold the humble wheelchair

photo-blog-wheelchairAccording to the Encyclopedia Britannica it is unknown precisely when the first wheeled chairs were invented and used for disabled persons.  Some scholars suspect that the history of the wheelchair begins sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries B.C., which means it has been around for a long time.  Not much was done to bring new innovations to this invention until relatively recent times.

Have you heard about the new wheelchair innovations?

At a recent Conference on innovative technology to improve quality of life for the elderly, I heard an interesting Presentation on advances in wheeled mobility.  Intelligent wheelchair research has been developed to improve the traditional wheelchair characteristics.   These new intelligent wheelchairs have built in assistive robotics, and human computer interface technology.   Older adults are the most prevalent users of wheelchairs, but many are prevented from using a powered wheelchair due to cognitive impairment, safety and usability risks.

Intelligent Wheelchair Systems (IWS)

To address the issues with older adults researchers have developed Intelligent Wheelchair Systems (IWS).
This helps older adults with cognitive and physical impairments drive a motorized wheelchair that will reduce the risk of injury to themselves or others.  For example, an Intelligent Wheelchair System can add a vision-based anti-collision feature that prevents the wheelchair from hitting obstacles.  These types of wheelchairs can also have a built in navigational assistive features with audio prompts which assist in maneuvering around objects.  Wheelchairs allow the immobile to become mobile, and intelligent wheelchair system technology is advancing this concept to include the severely disabled and cognitively impaired older adults.

Wheelchairs now come in a variety of models depending on the needs of the users.

The variety of wheelchairs both electric and manual has dramatically changed. Ongoing research and development is creating a wheelchair that proves to be an extension of the body because of computer interface technology.  Research is creating a wheelchair where the seat can be raised and tilted forward, backward or sideways.  The seat can be raised and adjusted electronically just like adjusting the seat in your car.  The wheelchair seat can be raised and tilted forward so that the person can have access to high counters or tables, and can be maneuvered into an upright position.

New Safety Features

Safety features to prevent falls with wheelchairs, and protective devices, such as airbags built into the wheelchair were also discussed at the Conference.  Seatbelts to include the combination of shoulder and lap seatbelt have demonstrated the prevention of injuries from falls out of the wheelchair.    Statistics presented at the Conference revealed that the majority of people in wheelchair accidents, sustained head, neck, and shoulder injuries.    I have included a Google search on a variety of safety features for both manual and motorized wheelchairs that shows images of the new devices.

Want to find out more?
History of the wheelchair
Safety Features on Wheelchairs

Harnessing Technology for Aging-In-Place Conference “Technologies in Aid of Mobility” May 14-15, 2015, Vancouver, British Columbia
Wheeling in the New Millennium: The history of the wheelchair and the driving forces in wheelchair design today

Helen Trowsdale, President of AA Care Services, is a nurse administrator with over 30 years of experience as a BSN, psychiatric nurse, and geriatric care manager with adults as well as pediatrics in hospitals, private duty home health care agencies, and residential home health care. Her team of caregivers are dedicated to serving their clients with home care in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin; providing clients with consistent, quality care while minimizing the number of caregivers in the home. Learn more about AA Care Services.

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