UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


Assistive wheelchair technology to reduce injuries in users and carers

A new power add-on for wheelchairs can increase independence for users.

Person in a wheelchair

28 September 2018

The average wheelchair user is overweight, living with a long-term health condition and dependent in some way on a carer. More than one in five carers have suffered an injury due to caring and more than half have had to stop caring to due mental and physical health complaints.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are 240,000 active wheelchair users who are able to get on with their daily activities independently – but with each push they wear their shoulder muscle down and can be left with severe upper limb injuries.

As part of an EPSRC-funded project, Dr Cathy Holloway led the development of technology to combat both of these issues. The research defines the user-requirements and power system specifications for a new type of power add-on for wheelchairs that will provide proportional assistance, reducing the burden on carers and increasing the independence of wheelchair users. The lightweight, force-detecting device incorporates fuel cell technology which will drastically reduce its weight. 

Related links:
"But, I Don't Want/Need a Power Wheelchair ": Toward Accessible Power Assistance for Manual Wheelchairs