Sandra L. Winkler, Sergio Romero, Emily Prather, Marisa Ramroop, Emmy Slaibe, Matthew Christensen; Innovative Power Wheelchair Control Interface: A Proof-of-Concept Study. Am J Occup Ther 2016;70(2):7002350010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.015750
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
Some people without independent mobility are candidates for powered mobility but are unable to use a traditional power wheelchair joystick. This proof-of-concept study tested and further developed an innovative method of driving power wheelchairs for people whose impairments prevent them from operating commercial wheelchair controls. Our concept, Self-referenced Personal Orthotic Omni-purpose Control Interface (SPOOCI), is distinguished by referencing the control sensor not to the wheelchair frame but instead to the adjacent proximal lower-extremity segment via a custom-formed orthosis. Using a descriptive case-series design, we compared the pre–post functional power wheelchair driving skill data of 4 participants, measured by the Power Mobility Program, using descriptive analyses. The intervention consisted of standard-care power wheelchair training during 12 outpatient occupational or physical therapy sessions. All 4 participants who completed the 12-wk intervention improved their functional power wheelchair driving skills using SPOOCI, but only 3 were deemed safe to continue with power wheelchair driving.
Moving the sensor reference frame from the wheelchair to the user’s body may reduce involuntary neuromuscular activity triggered by reaching and postural maintenance in people with abnormal muscle tone (i.e., athetosis, dystonia, ataxia). As a result, the signal-to-noise ratio during system control is improved; that is, control is less distorted by unintended motor output.
By providing a wearable interface, SPOOCI eliminates the effort and attention associated with positioning a limb to grasp an externally mounted control.
The spurious inputs to a PW control interface that can result from inertial effects on the user’s limb during changes in speed and direction will be reduced if the interface is not referenced to the wheelchair frame.
The fit and quality of the power wheelchair are critical to user independence and safety.
Occupational therapists must evaluate posture and visual field when the user is seated in the wheelchair.
Wireless technologies should provide options to reference the power wheelchair control interface to the wheelchair users’ tone rather than requiring the user to adapt to the wheelchair-referenced joystick.
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