Nearly a third of wheelchair-users say they have been frustrated because the design of their mobility device felt ‘outdated’ while 90% of users in the UK have experienced pain and discomfort as a result of their mobility devices.
That’s according to an international study of wheelchair-users on behalf of the Toyota Mobility Foundation which shows some of the main gripes customers have with their devices and calls for “urgent innovation” in the sector.
Wheelchair users in five countries were polled and half said they experience back pain every day, 32% said they experience shoulder pain, 26% experience neck pain and 21% constantly experience back pain.
The study, which aims to highlight a need for investment in assistive technology, found that 32% of wheelchair users in the UK experience repetitive strain injury and 23% experience pressure sores.
The data showed that half of wheelchair users have needed assistance travelling to destinations, while 43% say they have been unable to find an accessible toilet when they needed one.
Furthermore, 31% of wheelchair users reported having to wait for multiple buses or trains to pass before one had space to accommodate them, while nearly a quarter say they have been declined entry on to public transport.
But the survey revealed the kinds of improvements that would be welcomed by and deemed most useful by users.
The Toyota Mobility Foundation in partnership with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre commissioned the research in order to better understand the day-to-day experiences of wheelchair users as part of the Mobility Unlimited Challenge.
A £3m global challenge was launched in November by Toyota with the aim of changing the lives of people with lower-limb paralysis.
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge is seeking teams around the world to create game-changing technology that will help radically improve the mobility and independence of people with paralysis.
Ryan Klem, director of programs at the Toyota Mobility Foundation, said the new research expresses an “urgent need for innovation”.
“It’s surprising that with all of the technology we have today, we still have people in constant pain as a result of their mobility devices.
“The comments we are receiving through social media show the kinds of developments that people want to see and we hope the Challenge will result in genuinely life-changing technologies.”
Charlotte Macken of Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, commented: “While the focus of this Challenge is lower-limb paralysis, we absolutely do expect that the technology developed as a result will be transferable and have the potential to improve the lives of a much wider group of people.
“This Challenge is about achieving impact, and for that reason, we needed to narrow the focus. However we recognise that people have a wide range of mobility needs and hope to be able to help them too.”