Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Research and development of an appropriate electric powered wheelchair for India
by Pearlman, Jonathan Lee, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2007, 255; 3485872
Abstract (Summary)

The need for assistive technology (AT) extends far outside of the countries where users have the financial capacity to buy them, or there is a social welfare infrastructure to subsidize their purchase. In developing countries, where both technology and financial resources are scarce, AT users face tremendous challenges to find high-quality devices that are affordable. This scenario is in part due to organizations who transfer sub-standard AT to these countries by taking a ‘something is better than nothing approach’ to a clinically and technologically challenging problem.

The goal of this work is to develop and demonstrate AT design and technology transfer strategies that take into consideration the clinical and technological needs of the intended user population. Although other projects have and do take these important user-centered factors into consideration, this work represents the first comprehensive attempt from an academic perspective, where hypotheses are proposed and tested, and design goals are described and evaluated with respect to the final product. The main focus of this work is on mobility devices (wheelchairs, specifically) although many of the protocols and techniques could be extended to address AT design and technology transfer to developing countries in general.

The first part of this dissertation (Chapters 1 & 2) focuses on the background literature, and proposes a model describing the important factors influencing the success or failure of a wheelchair technology transfer project. The second part of this dissertation provides a case study in the development of an electric powered wheelchair for users in India. First, an analysis of a commercially available low-cost powered wheelchairs were evaluated (Chapter 3). Second, a study to assess the needs of users in India was performed using a modified ethnographic approach (Chapter 4). Third, the design and evaluation of a novel low-cost electric powered wheelchair for Indian users is described (Chapter 5). The final chapter (Chapter 6) discusses the implication of this work and suggests future directions. The entire drawing-set for the second generation prototype developed here is also included, allowing others to build upon the approach and the design developed here.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cooper, Rory
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 73/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Physical therapy, Mechanical engineering, South Asian Studies
Keywords: Developing countries, Electric power, India, Product design, Wheelchair
Publication Number: 3485872
ISBN: 978-1-267-03197-6
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