A Wheelchair For Dance
The Rolling Dance/Mobility Chair Project was initiated by Merry L. Morris, faculty member in the College of the Arts at the University of South Florida. The intent of the project has been to design and develop several assistive mobility devices for application in both dance and daily living contexts. Morris’s father, a veteran, was injured in a severe car accident which left him with a severe brain injury and complicated paralysis issues. The chair project was inspired from Morris’s personal caregiving experience with her mother over a 21 year period. Her caregiving experience yields particular insight into the long-term care complexities resulting from a severe physical/mental trauma for both individuals and their families. Morris’s work with dancers with and without disabilities (children and adults)also helped to inform the chair’s technological and aesthetic design. Currently, there is a patent-pending prototype chair. See recent news article here: http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/from-the-mind-of-a-dancer-a-new-kind-of-wheelchair/2143164 .
The rolling dance chair is unique from other types of wheelchairs in that it offers different movement and control options. It is an omni-directional, smartphone-controlled powered wheelchair. It possesses the following integrated movement options: height adjustment, omni-directional movement, (forward, backward, diagonal, side-to-side, and r/l turning motion), seat rotation, and a freely mobile smartphone - tilt control which can be placed virtually anywhere on the body or held by hand. When worn on the chest or upper back, the individual is hands-free and simply directs the chair by leaning their body forward/back/side, etc. The simple tilting action of the phone propels the device. The base of the unit is particularly compact and stable (non-tipping) with wheels situated securely on four sides. Two safety switches on the device allow the user to quickly cut the power if needed, and the chair may be stopped by the phone controller as well. Any seat may be mounted to the single post mounting system, and may be easily removed for easy transport in a vehicle. This is a unique asset, which most power chairs do not possess.
At this point, funding is needed to improve upon the existing prototype chair and make the chair(s) accessible to those who could benefit from it. I have had six wheelchair users test the current prototype and provide beneficial feedback thus far. Many individuals have contacted me with interests in the chair, and I would like to enable those individuals to at least try a chair such as this one for dance and similar activities. I have assembled a team of individuals including engineers and those in the wheelchair industry who are ready to build the next improved iteration of the chair, but funding is needed to make this goal a reality. For more background information, etc. see my blog: http://artsanddisability.blogspot.com/