Mobility equipment such as wheelchairs, prosthesis and assistive walking devices play a major role on the quality of life for the aged and people with a disability. Advances in technology underpin such assistive devices, for example the development of the energy storing prosthetic foot, can make a lower limb amputee’s gait more efficient and ambulation faster. When this revolutionary prosthetic technology was specifically applied to active amputee, Paralympic sprinters, studies showed that running velocity was significantly increased. For people who have a spinal cord injury, or other lower limb impairments and are restricted to a wheelchair for mobility, would typically be assigned to the traditional wheelchair (or day chair). The traditional wheelchair consists of two larger wheels at the rear of the chair, to allow forward propulsion via the push rims, and two small smaller wheels at the front of the chair, to provide stability. The steering of the day chair is controlled by manipulating the rear wheels, either braking or propelling more on one side to change direction. To improve the level of activity this conventional design has been modified dramatically. To enable greater rapid acceleration and to change direction many chairs now incorporate a fifth wheel at the back, preventing the chair from flipping backwards during exercise activities, such as wheelchair tennis or basketball. If there is a need for longer distance to travel, a smaller push rim is a recent option as this requires less arm movement for a greater push. This chapter identifies how the quality of life has changed for people that rely on mobility devices of wheelchair and prosthesis. The performance measures are described with respect to the highly active uses, Paralympic athletes. Ultimately this new knowledge will translate into more functional wheelchair and prosthetic devices for daily activities in the broader population.
Activities of Daily Living: Performance, Impact on Life Quality and Assistance / Jean Baptiste Giroux and Charlotte Vallee (eds): Chapter 7, pp.135-146