A Mobile App for Wheelchair Propulsion Monitoring and Form Feedback
Student Team: RollRight
Yuyang Dong, Matteo Pergami-Peries, Matthew Ritch, Katherine Sheffield
Brian Maloney, PT, DPT, The Shepherd Center
There are currently 2.7-3.7 million wheelchair users in the US, of which 90% are manual wheelchair users (MWUs). Approximately half of all MWUs experience upper body pain or chronic injury, reducing their quality of life and mobility. These issues are associated with improper propulsion form and may be caused by the high force requirements, repetitive motions, and extreme joint postures demanded by wheelchair propulsion. New wheelchair users do receive some instruction in proper wheelchair propulsion form, but it is often only taught at the very beginning of their rehabilitation alongside instruction for many other everyday tasks. This brief instruction period coupled with a rehabilitative focus on regaining other functions means that many new wheelchair users fall into maladaptive propulsion patterns. There is a need for a device which can monitor MWUs’ propulsion techniques in their daily lives outside the clinic and provide them with feedback they can use to improve their form. Successfully improving MWUs’ form will reduce their risk of developing harmful complications from manual wheelchair use.
We have developed an application for Android phones and watches to address this need. Our application uses the Android devices’ magnetometers and accelerometers to detect wheelchair propulsion, assess if the wearer is using proper form, and measure their pushing frequency. The application then displays this information to the user and provides feedback meant to improve their form and avoid the negative effects of improper propulsion. We plan to extend our software to continuously monitor and record a user’s activity so that both users and their caregivers can track the user’s long-term trends in form.