Towards specifying steering mechanisms that have the ability to seamlessly integrate into users’ everyday lives, understanding movement patterns in conventional wheelchairs is essential. To achieve this, wheelchairs of 14 participants were equipped with inertial measurement units to track movement during an entire week.
As a most general pattern, it appears that wheelchair movement can be described as a series of straightforward sections and sharper corrective turns of relatively small radii and angles. For the 14 subjects and the total 87294 curves that were recorded, a median turning radius varied between 0.95m and 1.35m while 18% to 28% of turns were classified as turns on the spot (i.e. showed a turning radius smaller than half the width of the wheelchair).
Overall, the data supports the introduction of a steering mechanism as they clearly show that turning is generally associated with a loss of speed. In-depth analysis of these comprehensive datasets allows framing specific recommendation towards developing user-friendly steering systems and provides an understanding of people’s current habits as well as possible changes with the introduction of novel, steering wheelchairs.