Researchers add ‘teeth’ to standards for wheelchairs

‘We want to translate standards into strategies and techniques for selecting products based on performance’

by: Liz Beaulieu - Friday, November 10, 2017

PITTSBURGH – Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have secured a nearly $5 million grant to continue their work developing standards to improve product quality and safety for wheelchairs.

Wheelchair quality and safety are a growing problem, the researchers say, with about 50% of users saying they have experienced a breakdown in a six-month period, according to research they have already conducted.

“This grant allows us to have a real impact,” said Jon Pearlman, an associate professor at UPitt. “In the research community, you’re often awarded grants for thinking outside the box and for working on products that might be realistic in10 years. This is more practical.”

The “Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center” grant, awarded by the National Institute on Disability, a federal government agency within the U.S. Department of Education, will provide more than $900,000 each year for five years.

Researchers plan to spend the first few years of the grant improving or adding to existing standards, particularly related to cushion load-bearing performance, cushion durability, caster durability, and wheel rolling resistance, and the remaining few years applying those standards to different products.

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