RESNA Annual Conference - 2020

Testing Rough-Terrain Wheelchair Models On Desertic Surfaces In Niger

Elia Bernabeu Mira (ICRC)*; Mahamane Waje (National Hospital of Niamey); Ibrahim Sala Samber (Physiotherapy association of Niger); Aynaou Issoufou (Federation of Persons with disability of Niger); Gabriel Fueglistaler (Internationational Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC))

Over 80% of Niger’s surface lies in the Sahara Desert and most of the roads are sandy where standard wheelchairs sink and aren’t an option for mobility. Despite an estimated need of 210’000 wheelchairs, there are only a few mobility devices locally available, which are frequently not adapted to the needs of the users and the environment.

The wheelchairs specifically designed for rough and sandy terrain have not been tested in Niger. Therefore, the present research studies four models of rough-terrain wheelchairs to measure their performance in local conditions and to receive feedback on satisfaction of users.

Wheelchairs are tested by a small group of ten participants, including adults, minors, women, men and different types of disability. Every participant uses two of the four types of wheelchairs for a month each, with performance assessments before and after. The wheelchairs’ performance on typical sandy terrain as well as the impact on participation, accessibility of life space and capacity to execute everyday tasks is measured through the following four standardized tests: Wheelchair Outcome Measures (WhoM), Functional Mobility Assessment (FMA), Life Space Assessment Scale (LSA) and Physical Performance Test.

The study is carried out by a multidisciplinary research team from the federation of persons with disabilities, public health care providers, professional associations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The approach follows the principles of human-centered design and inclusive development. The final phase of data collection is currently ongoing, and results will be available by March.

Performance data on the studied models will further the understanding of wheelchair features required to meet local conditions and needs of users in Niger as well as other similar contexts. Thus, the results will inform development of assistive technology for mobility adapted to sandy, resource- limited environments.

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