The first group of emergency wheelchair prototypes are undergoing field trials in Pakistan at the moment. Seeing a new prototype being used is always really exciting, and we’re really looking forward to hearing how they perform. Our partner, Handicap International, is running the trials through its team in the field. Pakistan has sadly experienced a number of natural disasters in recent years with the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, and the more recent floods, so the team have a good understanding of the implementation of emergency responses.
Sultan preparing an emergency wheelchair for trial Ikram - A trial participant
This is a small trial to find out how the wheelchair performs in a real life situation, so that we can make any changes we need to the design before it is put in large scale production. We need to evaluate the effectiveness of the wheelchair as a temporary use wheelchair including how easy it is to transfer from the wheelchair, manoeuvre the wheelchair, be pushed by assistants, and how comfortable it is. We also need to make sure the product is safe for wheelchair users to use so we can approve the design for production from a clinical perspective. We will be trialling the procedures for an emergency wheelchair response at the next stage.
We chose five experienced wheelchair users with various mobility disabilities to use the wheelchair carrying out their daily activities over three months. Although many people who are injured in an emergency will never have used a wheelchair, experienced wheelchair users have a better understanding of what they should be able to achieve in a wheelchair, so will be able to give better feedback. The wheelchair users will be fitted with a long-term use wheelchair once the trials are complete.
Once the wheelchairs had been delivered to Pakistan and cleared through customs (a lengthy process in this case!), they were fitted to the triallers who all live in the Swat region. The clinician in charge of the trials, Sultan, gave each wheelchair user a briefing on the purpose of the trials and what would be expected from them over the three months before they agreed to participate. It’s really important that the wheelchair users are well informed and know what they should do if a part of the wheelchair was to break or cause them harm, and they will be in close contact with Sultan throughout the trials to make sure the trials run safely.
The wheelchair users all received the wheelchairs positively – the majority of them had been using poor quality wheelchairs previously – and the wheelchairs were all fitted to them. We are looking forward to returning to them in six weeks to find out how they have got on.
Sarah Sheldon - Programme Coordinator, Motivation