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Braze Mobility with the two puzzle pieces with the words Challenges in the left puzzle piece and Solutions in the right puzzle piece

The Challenges and Solutions in Wheelchair Training and Assessment (Part 3)

The Smart Wheelchairs in Assessment and Training (SWAT) State of the Field workshop was an initiative to gather various stakeholders in power wheelchair training and assessment and create a comprehensive review of the current state of the discipline. The participants involved a balance of both clinical and technical experts on wheelchair training and assessment and the outcomes of the workshop are published in an AGEWELL report. The 3-part Braze Mobility SWAT Blog Series will discuss some key outcomes of this workshop.

According to the SWAT report, the main challenges faced by practitioners in wheelchair training and assessment and those being assessed and trained for wheelchair use are:

  1. High cost of equipment and funding constraints
  2. Lack of available resources to train and supervise users safely
  3. Limitations in commercially available technology to accommodate client needs

What Solutions Have Been Proposed to Combat These Challenges?

1. Lack of Available Resources to Train and Supervise Users on Safe Use

In order to gain the maximum impact from the limited resources available, therapists can use technologies such as Smart Wheelchairs. Smart Wheelchairs have many different benefits that will help to increase the efficiency of training and assessment sessions.

The first is that these devices can monitor users at all times, not just when in the clinic. This provides therapists with a more holistic view of their clients’ driving habits, and can help them to identify problems that occur in settings outside of the clinic environment or assessment hours.

For example, smart wheelchair technology could be used to detect if clients experience more collisions after a certain time due to fatigue or side effects of medication. This data can also be used to determine skills requiring additional training sessions, and target therapy sessions accurately towards the needs of the user. This could in turn reduces the required one-on-one evaluation time.

Diagram that summarizes the three kinds of smart wheelchair systems, according to Viswanathan et al., 2017.
Summary of three kinds of smart wheelchair technology systems (Viswanathan et al., 2017).

Smart wheelchairs can also provide the user with feedback about their driving, and hazards in their environment. This allows for training to occur outside of the clinic, maintaining client safety without requiring one-on-one therapist supervision. These benefits could reduce the time constraints on therapists, as well as increase the amount of training the user is able to obtain from each session.

2. Limitations in Commercially Available Technology to Accommodate Client Needs

Translating research into clinical practice was found by the report to be critical to ensuring progress in adaptive technology. In adapting research into commercially available products, usercentered design must be used to develop the technologies through engaging end users in the design process. The SWAT report identifies that potential technological solutions to accessibility challenges mostly involve solutions that engineers already have the technological know-how to create, and therefore progress is within reach. There is currently a commercially available option to provide a wheelchair user with feedback outside of the clinic.

GIF demonstrating Braze's blind spot sensors detecting objects and providing visual feedback.
Braze’s blind spot sensors detecting objects and providing visual feedback.

The Braze Sentina Plus provides users with 180 degrees of blind spot detection, with the possibility of adding up to three Echo heads for 45 degrees of customizable coverage. The Sentina can provide visual, auditory or vibration feedback to the user, alerting them of objects in their environment and helping them to navigate tight spaces independently. This product was developed using the outcomes of the SWAT report along with extensive user feedback, and can be used with almost any wheelchair. To learn more, click here!

3. High Cost of Equipment and Funding Constraints

In order for smart wheelchairs to be economically viable, there must be access to funding for those who would benefit from the device. The SWAT report found that the additional cost in development and production of a smart wheelchair is justified by the benefit provided to the user, as access to powered mobility devices for safe and independent mobility is a human right. Low-cost solutions are another possible solution, such as the Braze Hydra which is available for $1850 USD! For more information on funding challenges and solutions, stay tuned to the Braze blog, as our next series will tackle available funding in Canada!

Read More About Smart Wheelchair Technology

A download now image for the Update on Smart Wheelchair Technology free eBook from Braze Mobility
  • Download our FREE E-Book on Smart Wheelchair Technology!
  • Read Part 1: The 5 things you should know about Smart Wheelchair technology!
  • Read Part 2: The Current State of Wheelchair Training and Assessment


  1. Viswanathan, P., Wang, R., Sutcliffe, A., Kenyon, L., Foley, G., Miller, W., Bell, J., Kirby, L., Simpson, R., Mihailidis, A., Adams, M., Archambault, P., Black, R., Blain, J., Bresler, M., Cotarla, S., Demiris, Y., Giesbrecht, E., Gardner, P., Gryfe, P., Hall, K., Mandel, C., McGilton, K., Michaud, F., Mitchell, I., Mortenson, B., Nilsson, L., Pineau, J., Smith, E., Zambalde, E., Zondervan, D., Routhier, F. & Carlson, T. (2018). “Smart Wheelchair in Assessment and Training (SWAT): State of the Field” AGEWELL.