Electric Powered Wheelchair Driving Strategies Over Difficult Outdoor Terrain: A Focus Group Study

Benjamin A. Salatin, B.S.1-3 , Emily Teodorski, B.S.1-3 , Hongwu Wang, M.S.1-3 , Garret G. Grindle, M.S.1-3 , Dan Ding, Ph.D. 1-3 , Rory A. Cooper, Ph.D.1-3

1.Human Engineering Research Laboratories, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pittsburgh, PA
2. Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, University of Pittsburgh
3. Engineering Research Center on Quality of Life Technology (QoLT), Pittsburgh, PA


When a first time electric powered wheelchair (EPW) user chooses and tests a wheelchair they are often required to complete some basic indoor driving exercises to familiarize themselves with the EPW. This basic level of training does not always prepare people for the multitude of driving situations they will face outdoors. The objective of this study was to begin documenting driving strategies for EPWs that will assist new users in learning to drive more safely and researchers in the development of new EPW designs and control systems. Two focus groups were conducted for this study. One with advanced EPW users and one with clinicians. The three situations the EPW users were the most concerned about were slipping, getting stuck, and tipping. The way they chose to deal with these situations involved avoiding them almost completely or bringing a friend along to help them just in case.


electric powered wheelchair; driving strategies; safety; difficult outdoor terrain


The work is supported in part by Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center, National Science Foundation (EEC-0540865), the National Institutes of Health (1R03HD048465-01A1), and the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Service (B3142C).

Author Contact Information:

Benjamin A. Salatin, Human Engineering Research Laboratories, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, 7180 Highland Drive, Bldg 4, 151R1-H, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, Office Phone (412) 954-5287 EMAIL: bas90@pitt.edu