Measuring confidence with wheelchair mobility

In 2000/01, approximately 264 000 Canadians required a wheelchair for mobility. Independence with mobility is important for day-to-day living, social activities, and overall quality of life. However, although wheelchair skills training has become much more prevalent in the past decade, more than half of Canadians using a wheelchair are not independent and require assistance with their mobility. One factor that has not yet been explored by research is the impact of confidence on a person’s mobility and independence. Confidence contributes to the acquisition of knowledge and refinement of new abilities. It also influences an individual’s choice of activities, motivational level, effort, resilience, life choices, and perseverance in the face of difficulties. Preliminary research suggests that confidence may affect wheelchair mobility, but there is currently no tool to assess or address this important factor. Paula Rushton is developing and validating an assessment tool to measure wheelchair skills confidence. The creation of this tool involves input from occupational therapists, physical therapists and physicians, as well as wheelchair users in the community. The second phase of her project will involve testing the tool with one hundred community dwelling wheelchair users. The creation and validation of this tool is an important first step in developing treatment strategies that could address low confidence with wheelchair mobility. Ultimately, this work could result in better mobility and independence for people who use wheelchairs, and a decreased burden on the health care system and on caregivers.