Variables Affecting Mobility among Ambulators, Manual Wheelchair Users, and Power Wheelchair Users with Spina Bifida

Katie Crawford1,5 , Rachel Cowan MS2,5 , Anna Gaines BS3 , Brad E. Dicianno MD 2,4,5
1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame
2 Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, University of Pittsburgh
3 Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
4 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
5 Human Engineering Research Laboratories, Highland Drive VA Medical Center, Pittsburgh PA


            Spina Bifida (SB) affects over 70,000 Americans and often results in permanent disability and mobility impairments. Many individuals with SB use Assistive Technology (AT) to increase mobility in their daily lives. We enrolled 153 adult subjects with SB and recorded Craig Handicap Assessment Reporting Technique - Short Form (CHART SF) mobility scores, Beck Depression Inventory and a questionnaire on AT. We broke the subjects down into three groups: ambulators, manual wheelchair users (MWC) and power wheelchair users (PWC). We found that ambulators had increased mobility scores compared to wheelchair users. This may be due to limitations that MWC and PWC face with transportation and AT device quality. Future work should evaluate other methods of mobility such as velocity or wheelchair propulsion stroke frequency. Quality of AT devices should also be evaluated. 


Depression, Hydrocephalus, Mobility Limitation, Spinal Dysraphism, Wheelchairs


The funding for this research was provided in part by the National Science Foundation, Project EEC 0552351. Funding was also provided by the UPMC Dept. of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Contact Information

Brad E. Dicianno, MD, Human Engineering Research Labs, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, Phone: (412) 365-4850, Email: