Propelling a manual wheelchair requires strong muscular and cardiorespiratory capacities, and is often impossible due to environmental barriers. This leads users to adopt a sedentary lifestyle, which in turn leads to activity limitations, social isolation and medical complications. Moreover, half of users develop chronic shoulder pain due to high and repetitive joint loads.

For manual wheelchair users, preserving musculoskeletal integrity is crucial to keeping an active lifestyle; therefore, training is definitely important. Several studies have explored wheelchair propulsion training using stationary equipment such as simulators. These instruments are very interesting to add training to current rehabilitation process, since they can reproduce varied, realistic and controlled situations in a safe and repeated manner without requiring a large space and direct therapist time.

The WheelSims structuring project is an initiative funded by the FRQNT-INTER strategic group, that aims to adopt a user-centric approach to unify the development of a shared wheelchair simulator software infrastructure, which will facilitate the technology transfer between research laboratories and from research to clinics. It is currently composed of six researchers from five universities:

Project leader

Félix Chénier, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation of Greater Montreal (CRIR), Montreal

Researchers

Rachid Aissaoui, École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), CHUM Research Centre, Montreal

Philippe Archambault, McGill University, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation of Greater Montreal (CRIR), Montreal

Dany Gagnon, Montreal University, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation of Greater Montreal (CRIR), Montreal

François Routhier, Laval University, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration (CIRRIS), Quebec

Paula Rushton, Montreal University, Sainte-Justine Research Centre, Montreal.

This project contributes to the development of several wheelchair simulators in Montreal (pictures below), and to the current development of a new high-realism wheelchair simulator at the Institut universitaire sur la réadaptation en déficience physique de Montréal.

Manual wheelchair simulator
Laboratoire de recherche en imagerie et orthopédie (Rachid Aissaoui), École de technologie supérieure

Racing wheelchair simulator
Adaptive Sports Research Lab (Félix Chénier), Université du Québec à Montréal

Low cost manual/electric wheelchair simulator
Philippe Archambault’s Lab, McGill University