Design of a Glide Control Mechanism for a Manual Wheelchair

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atrc, assistive, technology, resource, center, mqp, wheelchair, glide, control, stability, mobility


The goal of this project was to design and develop a glide control mechanism for a middle aged client with autism at the Monson Developmental Center. The client enjoyed propelling himself backward in his wheelchair which could often pose a safety hazard if he ran into objects or into other people. The development of an attachable glide control mechanism would prevent the wheelchair from excessive gliding while still maintaining its freedom of motion. The design team first created a list of preliminary design concepts that would all reduce the amount of glide when attached to the wheelchair. These concepts included bicycle brake calipers, a friction clutch, a friction belt, a “Wheel of Fortune” friction device, a dragging brake, an electromagnetic device, a piston device, and a rotating brake. Lists of advantages and disadvantages were created for each device, and then each design was rated based on a priority matrix. After further analysis of cost and feasibility, the friction belt was chosen for development into a prototype. This design would include two belts which press against two hubs that are attached to the wheels of the wheelchair. The tension that this setup creates results in a greater frictional force between the belt and the hub, decreasing the ability of the wheels to rotate freely. The device was developed and tested for maneuverability, glide limitation, safety, wheel balance, and accessibility to the client. The device was then tested by the client and it was found that the glide control mechanism appropriately limited the speed that the wheelchair was able to reach, without inhibiting the mobility of the wheelchair.