Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Rehabilitation Research and Practice
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 753165, 7 pages
Research Article

Manual Wheelchair Use: Bouts of Mobility in Everyday Life

Rehabilitation Engineering and Applied Research Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, 490 10th Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318, USA

Received 8 May 2012; Accepted 29 May 2012

Academic Editor: Richard Crevenna

Copyright © 2012 Sharon Eve Sonenblum et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. This study aimed to describe how people move about in manual wheelchairs (MWCs) during everyday life by evaluating bouts of mobility or continuous periods of movement. Methods. A convenience sample of 28 MWC users was recruited. Participants' everyday mobility was measured using a wheel-mounted accelerometer and seat occupancy switch for 1-2 weeks. Bouts of mobility were recorded and characterized. Results. Across 29,200 bouts, the median bout lasted 21 seconds and traveled 8.6 m at 0.43 m/s. 85% of recorded bouts lasted less than 1 minute and traveled less than 30 meters. Participants' daily wheelchair activity included 90 bouts and 1.6 km over 54 minutes. Average daily occupancy time was 11 hours during which participants wheeled 10 bouts/hour and spent 10% of their time wheeling. Spearman-Brown Prophecy analysis suggested that 7 days were sufficient to achieve a reliability of 0.8 for all bout variables. Conclusions. Short, slow bouts dominate wheelchair usage in a natural environment. Therefore, clinical evaluations and biomechanical research should reflect this by concentrating on initiating movement, maneuvering wheelchairs, and stopping. Bouts of mobility provide greater depth to our understanding of wheelchair use and are a more stable metric (day-to-day) than distance or time wheeled.