Wheeled mobility refers to wheelchairs, whether powered or manual, that can be used by individuals with physical impairments to move or navigate space. Wheelchairs are relatively common, with 1.4% of the American population using them (Greer, Brasure, & Wilt, 2012). Despite there being other mobility devices on the market, wheelchairs are still the most popular (Koontz, Ding, Jan, de Groot, & Hansen (2015). The goal of a wheelchair is to enhance an individual’s participation in the activities of daily living and occupation (Reid, Laliberte-Rudman, & Hebert, 2002). There are numerous authors who have stated that independent mobility is one of the biggest predictors of quality of life for individuals with physical impairments (e.g., Koontz et al., 2015) and others who have reported that wheelchair satisfaction is related to overall quality of life (e.g., Marchiori, Bensmail, Gagnon, & Pradon, 2015), therefore it is extremely important to consider an individual’s specific needs when choosing a wheelchair for them.
A number of authors have begun to look at the challenges associated with using wheeled mobility in the research literature. Marchiori and colleagues (2015) reported that in a survey of wheelchair users and caregivers of individuals who use wheelchairs, wheelchair weight and difficulty with propelling the wheelchair outdoors were associated with lower levels of wheelchair satisfaction. In another review article, Reid, Laliberte-Rudman, and Hebert (2002) round that the greatest obstacle to wheelchair use was the physical environment, and that outdoor mobility provided the greatest challenges and safety concerns. On the other hand, Taylor and colleagues (2015) suggested that wheelchair fittings can maximize posture, patient comfort and independence for wheelchair users. These fittings may include adjustments to seat setup or components, and optimization of sitting balance and propulsion (Taylor et al., 2015). Recent advances in wheelchair devices and their components can also increase activity levels (Greer et al., 2012).
Bottos, Bolcati, Scuito, Ruggeri, and Feliciangeli (2001) studied the effects of providing children with severe motor impairments powered wheelchairs. The authors found that the children’s independence improved significantly when provided with the powered wheelchair, and concluded that powered wheelchairs can aid socialization and should be provided as early as possible for children with severe motor impairments. Rodby-Bousquet, Paleg, Casey, Wizert, and Livingstone (2016) confirmed this conclusion for individuals with cerebral palsy.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description, this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.
Enhance an individual’s participation in the activities of daily life (Reid et al., 2012)
Provide access to independent mobility, which is a predictor of quality of life (Koontz et al., 2015)
Individuals may have challenges with propelling the wheelchair forward (Marchiori et al., 2015)
Outdoor mobility may provide a safety concern (Reid et al., 2012)
Quality of life and mobility are affected by the goodness of fit of the wheelchair to the individual. It is therefore critical to get the right wheelchair for the individual’s specific characteristics and needs (Greer et al., 2012).
Taylor and colleagues (2015) suggest that a multidisciplinary team including physicians, occupational therapists, and physical therapists, rehabilitation engineers, and the wheelchair supplier, along with the wheelchair user or caregiver, should collaborate to determine the most appropriate wheelchair.
The information on this webpage is meant to act as an introduction to this technology. One should consider further research and consult medical professionals to determine if this product is a good fit for their specific needs.
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Bottos, M., Bolcati, C., Sciuto, L., Ruggeri, C., & Feliciangeli, A. (2001). Powered wheelchairs and independence in young children with tetraplegia. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 43, 769-777.
Greer, N., Brasure, M., & Wilt, T. J. (2012). Wheeled mobility (wheelchair) service delivery: Scope of the evidence. Annals of Internal Medicine, 156, 141-146.
Marchiori, C., Bensmail, D., Gagnon, D., & Pradon, D. (2015). Manual wheelchair satisfaction among long-term users and caregivers: A French study. JRRD, 52, 181-191.
Reid, D., Laliberte-Rudman, D., & Hebert, D. (2002). Impact of wheeled seated mobility devices on adult users’ and their caregivers’ occupational performance: A critical literature review. The Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, 261-280.
Rodby-Bousquet, E., Paleg, G., Casey, J., Wizert, A., & Livingstone, R. (2016). Physical risk factors influencing wheeled mobility in children with cerebral palsy: A cross-sectional study. BMC Pediatrics, 16, 395-406.
Taylor, S., et al. (2015). Patterns in wheeled mobility skills training, equipment evaluation, and utilization: Findings from the SCIRehab project. Assistive Technology, 27, 59-68.
Written by Bronwyn Lamond, Last Revision May 2018