A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) professor has created a geared wheelchair system that introduces a new “low gear,” similar to what you would see on a bicycle.
Associate professor Brooke Slavens created the system in order to make getting around in a wheelchair easier and less painful for long-term users.
How the System Works
Much like the gear system on a bicycle, this new wheelchair system allows users to easily traverse uphill, over carpets or up the ramp of a wheelchair accessible vehicle. The device simply changes how the hand rim moves in relationship to the wheel. It can also be easily popped on and off standard wheelchairs, making it compatible with virtually any wheelchair on the market today.
The Research Behind the Device
Slavens and her team work out of the UWM mobility lab and used sensors to track human movement and develop the device. There were 15 infrared cameras in the room that captured the motion of test subjects, measuring them in live 3D. This allowed researchers to observe and track the muscle activity and amount of energy that was used to move a wheelchair while in each gear of the device.
“Pain is a huge factor for these individuals, as well as arthritis, rotator cuff injuries and carpal tunnel because your arms aren’t meant to propel and move your body… It’s really important to me personally to be able to help individuals and to help them be able to have more of a pain free active lifestyle,” she told CBS 58 in Milwaukee.
Read their full news report to see a video of the device in action.
Her team has been partnered with Intelliwheels, an Illinois-based company that we’ve written about before. In the past, Intelliwheels had created a tech startup that allowed people to design their own wheelchairs and was also the brains behind IntelliWheels Easy Push, a wheelchair with a similar gear systems as the one Slavens and her team are developing.
Since the device is still new, and there is a lot of research still to be conducted, there is no word yet on how much it will cost consumers who want one.
What do you think of the new gear system? Would you be interested in getting one for your wheelchair? Join the conversation by commenting below!