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This article describes a unique design collaboration between the College of the Arts, School of Theatre and Dance and the Center for Assistive, Rehabilitation & Robotics Technologies in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida, which has resulted in a patented, hands-free mobility chair for use in multiple populations aimed at improving quality of life. An interdisciplinary team redesigned a powered mobility (wheel) chair to enable individuals to operate it hands-free. This type of controller allows the chair to become an extension of the body, and create new movement and choreographic possibilities useful in the expressive arts such as dance. The patented prototype design enables individuals to control direction and speed of movement by leaning the torso, leaving the upper extremities free to move expressively. This offers a unique mobility option. Additional movement features in progress, such as height control, and seat rotation also add to the versatility and utility of the device to serve a variety of purposes. This article addresses technological design through the artistic lens of dance, summarizes the innovation process and context, and highlights the educational impact and interdisciplinary research progress thus far.
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Keywords: Assistive; Mixed ability dance; Mobility; Rolling dance chair project; Wheelchair design

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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