The lead-acid batteries currently used in powered wheelchairs are heavy, costly to replace, and require long recharge times. Although alternative battery chemistries are available that address some of these issues, they are more expensive and raise concerns about their safety, reliability,
and compatibility with powered wheelchairs. Prototypes using alternatives such as solar power, fuel cells, and super capacitors have been developed, yet the feasibility of such devices being commercialized is low. This study focused on using pneumatic power as an alternative energy source
in a powered wheelchair called the PneuChair. A participatory action design approach was applied throughout the study, where two sets of focus groups gathered feedback from end-users and mobility device professionals about the conceptual design of the PneuChair and their experiences using
the PneuChair at a wheelchair accessible waterpark. The PneuChair was also tested using applicable ANSI/ISO Wheelchair Standards tests. The PneuChair features a tubular aluminum frame driven with a pneumatic joystick. A manufactured prototype passed the applicable ANSI/ISO Wheelchair Standards
tests, and the results were equivalent to those of Group 2 electric-powered wheelchairs. As a result, pneumatic power is a feasible alternative energy source for powered wheelchairs that is safer, lighter weight, waterproof, and capable of being quickly recharged in 10 minutes.
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Document Type: Research Article
November 1, 2018
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