Purpose: Appropriate wheelchair prescription requires maximizing user function while justifying cost. The purpose of this study was to investigate differences in a user's performance of mobility skills (on a community obstacle course) between an ultralight (UWC) and standard wheelchair (SWC). Subjects: Sixty healthy adults (mean = 28.3 years) without wheelchair experience performed one course trial. Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to an UWC or a SWC. Researchers recorded time for completion, Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE), and number, location, and types of errors committed. Errors included contact of WC and any obstacle, front casters leaving the ground, or loss of directional control (veering). Results: A MANOVA of the data (p < 0.05) showed a significant difference in numbers of contact errors (higher in the SWC) and castor errors (higher in the UWC) between the two wheelchairs. Number of veering errors, time to complete, and RPE were not significantly different. Conclusions: Differences in wheelchair design can lead to differences in a user's performance of functional mobility skills. Choice of wheelchair may affect a user's ability to be independent in a community setting.
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