Major Study Completed on People Who Use Wheeled Mobility Aids

February 23, 2011

ideaThe results are in from a major study of people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids.  The study was conducted by the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center) with support from the Access Board and the Department of Education.  Under this project, researchers collected detailed measurements of people using a variety of wheeled mobility devices.  Almost 500 people at three locations participated in the study, making it one of the largest of its kind ever conducted.

IDEA Center researchers used 3-D imaging software and other technologies to capture static and functional measures from a diverse sample of 495 subjects using different types of mobility aids, including motorized devices such as power chairs and scooters.   The results were entered into a database and can be analyzed in multiple ways.  Extensive planning went into the design of the study and the measurement protocols used to collect data, including input received from two international conferences of invited experts and focus groups involving people with disabilities.

"The population of people with disabilities and the range of mobility aids on the market have become increasingly diverse and complex over the years," notes Marsha Mazz, the Board's Director of Technical and Information Services.  "The results from this ground-breaking research give us a much better understanding of today's population and the wheeled mobility devices aids now in use."

Results from the Anthropometry of Wheeled Mobility Project confirm significant differences in measurements and functional abilities between users of manual chairs, power chairs, and scooters, as well as between men and women.  Researchers compared the data to existing design specifications for accessibility.  Key findings from this analysis include:

  • Clear floor space requirements, especially the length, and knee and toe clearances do not accommodate many wheeled mobility aid users
  • Some mobility aids, particularly scooters, require greater clearances for maneuvering and turning
  • Points at the low end of recognized reach ranges are more problematic than those at the high end of the range

These and other findings are detailed in the final report which is available on the IDEA Center's website.  Related information, including an on-line continuing education course, is also available on this website.

  Project Directors Dr. Ed Steinfeld, Arch.D. and Victor Paquet, Sc.D. will provide a presentation on the study's findings at a meeting of the Access Board on March 7 from 10:00 to noon.  This event is open to the public and will take place at the Board's conference space at 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C.