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Controlling wheelchair direction on slopes

Martin Langner (Chailey Heritage)
David Sanders (Systems and Knowledge Engineering, Systems Engineering Research Group, University of Portsmouth)

Journal of Assistive Technologies

ISSN: 1754-9450

Article publication date: 1 June 2008



Simple and affordable systems are described to assist wheelchair users in steering their wheelchairs across sloping ground. The systems can be attached to many standard powered wheelchairs. Wheelchairs often steer by having two swivelling caster wheels but problems with this configuration occur when a wheelchair is driven along sloping ground because the casters can swivel in the direction of the slope. Gravity then causes the wheelchair to start an unwanted turn or ‘veer’ and the chair goes in an unintended direction. This situation is exacerbated for switch users, as switches cannot provide fine control to trim and compensate. Early experiments demonstrated that calibrating wheelchair controllers for straight‐line balance and optimising motor‐compensation did not solve this problem. Caster angle was selected to provide feedback to the wheelchair controllers. At the point when veer is first detected, a wheelchair has already begun to alter course and the job of the correction system is to minimise this drift from the desired course. A rolling road was created as an assessment tool and trials with both the test bed and in real situations were conducted to evaluate the new systems. The small swivel detector that was created could be successfully attached to caster swivel bearings. The new system was successful, robust and was not affected by changeable parameters. Although primarily intended for switch users, the methods can be applied to users with proportional controls.



Langner, M. and Sanders, D. (2008), "Controlling wheelchair direction on slopes", Journal of Assistive Technologies, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 32-41.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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