Wheelchair Service Dogs, Demographic Characteristics, and Social Participation: Who Benefits Most?

RESNA 28th Annual Conference - Atlanta, Georgia

Diane M. Collins, PhD1,2, Shirley G. Fitzgerald, PhD1,2, Stephanie G. Martin, MS1,2, Amanda Reinsfelder, BS1,2, Robert Milan BA1,2, Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, PhD3; Rory A. Cooper, PhD1,2,4; Michael L. Boninger, MD1,2,4

1Human Engineering Research Laboratories, VA Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA;
2Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology,
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
3Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
4Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA


community participation, service dogs, social interaction, wheelchairs


Service dogs open physical and social doors for individuals who use wheelchairs for mobility related impairments. In a cross-sectional study, weekly social participation of 154 people partnered with service dogs was compared to 91 people without dogs. As hypothesized, individuals partnered with service dogs were more likely to participate in socially related activities including visiting with friends, family, or associates and socially interacting with strangers, compared to those without service dogs. In contrast, those not partnered with service dogs were significantly more likely to attend movie theatres or concerts, activities that required less social participation.


Diane M. Collins, PhD
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
Human Engineering Research Laboratories
7180 Highland Dr., 151R-1
Pittsburgh, PA 15206