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Disabil Rehabil. 2006 Feb 28;28(4):213-20.

Comparison between performance with a pushrim-activated power-assisted wheelchair and a manual wheelchair on the Wheelchair Skills Test.

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School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.



To test the hypothesis that people using a pushrim-activated power-assisted wheelchair (PAPAW) can accomplish a wider range of wheelchair skills than when using a manual wheelchair (MWC).


We studied 30 able-bodied participants, using within-participant comparisons. Participants used a manual wheelchair equipped with both PAPAW and regular MWC rear wheels, and rear anti-tip devices (Arc-RADs) that permitted wheelie-like function. We trained participants to perform the wheelchair skills of the Wheelchair Skills Training Program (WSTP, Version 2.4). From the Wheelchair Skills Test (WST, Version 2.4), we calculated pass-fail success rates for the 50 individual skills and a total percentage WST score.


The mean (+/-SD) total WST scores were 89.3 (+/-7.0)% for the PAPAW and 88.8 (+/-8.4)% for the MWC, with a mean difference of 0.6 (+/-5.6)% (p = 0.59). Qualitative observations suggested that skills requiring a higher force on the pushrim (e.g., incline ascent) were performed more easily with the PAPAW, whereas skills requiring greater control of the wheelchair (e.g., wheelie-dependent skills) were performed more easily with the MWC.


Overall wheelchair skill performance with the PAPAW is not superior to that when using the MWC. The PAPAW may be helpful for specific skills that require more wheel torque, but the additional torque appears to be disadvantageous when performing skills that require greater control.

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