Measurement reliability of functional tasks for persons who self-propel a manual wheelchair

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2003 Apr;84(4):578-83. doi: 10.1053/apmr.2003.50021.


Objective: To evaluate the reliability of 4 functional tasks relevant to wheelchair seating.

Design: Within-subject and between-rater comparisons.

Setting: Rehabilitation center in Canada.

Participants: Two separate convenience samples of 10 male wheelchair users.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: The 4 functional tasks were timed forward wheeling, ramp ascent, forward vertical reach distance, and ramp descent, scored by an ordinal performance scale. To determine test-retest reliability, the participants performed each task twice on the same day. To determine interrater reliability, 5 experienced therapists independently scored each participant. The ramp descent task was replaced with a 1-stroke push distance task due to difficulties with the interpretation of the ordinal performance scale.

Results: Testing of all tasks was completed within 45 minutes, allowing for rest periods. There were no adverse incidents. One individual with C6 quadriplegia 4 months after spinal cord injury was unable to complete the ramp ascent. Estimates for test-retest reliability of all 4 functional tasks were excellent (r=.99). Interrater reliability was calculated for all tasks except the 1-stroke push and found to be excellent (intraclass correlation coefficient=.99).

Conclusions: The final 4 functional tasks are practical, safe, and reliable tests that may be used for clinical evaluation of wheelchair seating. Further research involving comparative assessments of wheelchair seating options is required to determine the discriminative ability of the tests.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Safety
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Wheelchairs*