Manual wheelchair use: bouts of mobility in everyday life

Rehabil Res Pract. 2012;2012:753165. doi: 10.1155/2012/753165. Epub 2012 Jul 15.

Abstract

Background. This study aimed to describe how people move about in manual wheelchairs (MWCs) during everyday life by evaluating bouts of mobility or continuous periods of movement. Methods. A convenience sample of 28 MWC users was recruited. Participants' everyday mobility was measured using a wheel-mounted accelerometer and seat occupancy switch for 1-2 weeks. Bouts of mobility were recorded and characterized. Results. Across 29,200 bouts, the median bout lasted 21 seconds and traveled 8.6 m at 0.43 m/s. 85% of recorded bouts lasted less than 1 minute and traveled less than 30 meters. Participants' daily wheelchair activity included 90 bouts and 1.6 km over 54 minutes. Average daily occupancy time was 11 hours during which participants wheeled 10 bouts/hour and spent 10% of their time wheeling. Spearman-Brown Prophecy analysis suggested that 7 days were sufficient to achieve a reliability of 0.8 for all bout variables. Conclusions. Short, slow bouts dominate wheelchair usage in a natural environment. Therefore, clinical evaluations and biomechanical research should reflect this by concentrating on initiating movement, maneuvering wheelchairs, and stopping. Bouts of mobility provide greater depth to our understanding of wheelchair use and are a more stable metric (day-to-day) than distance or time wheeled.