The ability of Veterans with SCI, MS, ALS, and many other conditions (e.g., multiple amputations, stroke, traumatic brain injury) to live in their homes and communities with maximal independence often hinges, at least in part, on their ability to transfer or be transferred by an assistant. In order to help Veterans with severe disabilities (VSD) live at home and participate in life's activities, the VA may provide for personal attendant care services and in some cases provide stipends for family members providing these services. The primary focus of this grant is study is to engineer solutions to allow VSD who require assistance (human or mechanical) while transferring to be able to transfer in their own homes, in the homes of friends/family, and in the community at large (e.g., hotels, restaurants, shopping malls) in a safe comfortable, efficient, and convenient manner. Clinical experience, focus groups, and the clinical literature strongly support this aim. We believe that an easy to use system for assisting with transfers that is attached to the wheelchair and readily transportable could have a significant impact on the quality of life of VSD. We also hope that this will translate to improvements in participation, particularly in the case of veterans with SCI, MS, or ALS, and other conditions. The Human Engineering Research Laboratories - Robotic Assisted Transfer Device (HERL-RATD) is a new idea that has not been fully investigated. We propose that an electric powered wheelchair mounted robotic transfer device will open new possibilities for community participation, interaction with friends and family, and for school, employment, and travel. Ultimately, we expect that the HERL-RATD will contribute to increased function and quality of life for veterans with severe disabilities (e.g., SCI, MS, ALS, and multi-limb amputations). Our literature review, focus group, and clinical experience have identified several shortcomings with current approaches: - Devices are not easily transportable and are intended only for use in a home or clinical setting. Transfer devices that are transportable (e.g., transfer boards) place considerable strain on the assistant. - Devices facilitate living at home, but do not adequately support community integration (e.g., cannot use the toilet at a local shopping mall or when visiting a hotel, friend or family). - Many living spaces (e.g., bathrooms, bedrooms) become crowded when trying to position a wheelchair, lifting device, and assistant, which greatly constrain the manner in which dependent or assisted transfers can be performed, which affects safety. - There has been little research to understand the biomechanics, ergonomics, and optimal design of portable, user friendly assistive transfer devices. Successful completion of this proposal will lead to the validation of a practical wheelchair mounted mobile robotic-assisted-transfer-device (RATD). The RATD will provide VSD and their caregivers greater autonomy and freedom to participate in the community at large.
The ability of Veterans who use electric powered wheelchairs (V-EPW) to live in their homes/communities with maximal independence often hinges on their ability to transfer or be transferred by an assistant. For V-EPW who need assistance with transfers there are not a lot of good options. During assisted transfers, there is a high risk of injury (both acute and cumulative) to both the wheelchair user and the assistant, especially over the long-term. The overarching objective of this study is to engineer solutions for V-EPW to be able to transfer in their homes, homes of friends/family, and in the community at large in a safe, comfortable, efficient, and convenient manner. Successful completion of this proposal will lead to the validation of a practical wheelchair mounted mobile robotic-transfer-device (RTD). The RTD will provide V- EPW greater autonomy and freedom to participate in the community at large.