what are wheelchair standards?
Wheelchair standards are specific test procedures used to provide information about the performance, safety, and dimensions of wheelchairs.
need for wheelchair standards
In 1982, ANSI (American National Standards Institute), a nonprofit standards-setting group, adopted 18 standard procedures for testing and comparing wheelchairs. Seating and structural dimensions, dynamic performance, and safety information are among the testing data recommended for disclosure. The standards are administered through RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America), an interdisciplinary association for the advancement of rehabilitation and assistive technology. The procedures ensure minimum wheelchair performance and safety levels, and provide a basis for consumers and clinicians to compare products when selecting a wheelchair.
Peter Axelson, Director of Research and Development at Beneficial Designs, serves as Secretary of the RESNA Standards Committee on Wheelchairs (WCS) and as a US delegate to the International Organization on Standardization (ISO) for Wheelchair Standards. These committees have worked for over a decade to establish standards for testing and reporting the performance and features of manual and powered wheelchairs.
Beneficial Designs conducts experimental testing to develop new test procedures to keep up with the development of new technologies. Peter Axelson is typically the only wheelchair user representing the voice of veterans and other wheelchair users at ISO international meetings. This is important since the RESNA national standards committee typically adopts the ISO standards in some form. The RESNA national standards were approved for republication in 2019, and new clauses included in them are being considered for inclusion in the ISO Wheelchair standards.
Wheelchair manufacturers conduct standard wheelchair testing on a voluntary basis. Beneficial Designs encourages this testing by assisting Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Publications in writing consumer product reviews based on testing information. These wheelchair comparison articles were published in Paraplegia News and Sports ‘n Spokes magazines.
consumer and clinician education
Beneficial Designs also works to educate wheelchair users and clinicians about wheelchair standards. Peter Axelson gives regular presentations at the RESNA conference explaining how to use standard test results to prescribe or select appropriate wheelchairs.
The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) funded Beneficial Designs to write A Guide to Wheelchair Selection: How to Use the ANSI/RESNA Wheelchair Standards to Buy a Wheelchair. Written by Peter Axelson, Jean Minkel, and Denise Chesney, the guide explains the test procedures and how to use the testing results to select an appropriate wheelchair.
participating in standards development
For information on when and where to participate in RESNA Standards Committee on Wheelchairs meetings, please visit the RESNA WCS webpage.
The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) contributes to Peter Axelson’s work as Secretary of the Wheelchair Standards Committee on Wheelchairs (WCS).
Learn more about participating in wheelchair standards development.