Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Geoff Reinhold, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Gary Rabideau, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Allen H. Hoffman, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Kristen L. Billiar, Committee Member




Pediatric powered mobility training teaches a child useful skills to become effectively mobile with the aid of their powered wheelchair. The staff at the Massachusetts Hospital School (MHS) desired a powered mobility training protocol that could be used for training children who were considered to be marginal wheelchair drivers with respect to basic maneuvering skills. The primary objective of the protocol was to reduce the subject's reliance on verbal cuing and replace this dependence by external cues provided by the environment. The specific aim of this pilot study was to investigate the use of a ranging device mounted on a powered wheelchair to provide an auditory feedback to the subject when an obstacle within its range was detected. The first goal of this study was to verify that the ranging device was capable of providing useful auditory feedback to the MHS patients that had met criteria to be candidates for the study. The second goal was to determine to what extent the device was beneficial in improving the subject's everyday mobility skills. The final goal was to observe if there was an internalization of the ranging device cues such that the subject's mobility skills improved upon removal of the device. Three subjects participated in this study. Each subject participated in pre-training, training and post-training evaluations through which the improvement of their mobility skills was measured. The results of this pilot study demonstrated that the use of a ranging device, with auditory feedback, can potentially be used effectively in the powered mobility training of children with disabilities. Further, it appeared that marginal wheelchair drivers were able to internalize some of the ranging device's auditory cues such that their performance improved when the sensing device was removed from their wheelchair. Recommendations for improving this study include using a more appropriate ranging device, redefining criteria for qualified candidates participating in the study, and eliminating variations in data between different evaluators.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





obstacle sensing, power wheelchair, mobility training, Wheelchairs, Design, Children with disabilities, Self-help devices for people with disabilities, Detectors