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An international study has found that outdated technology can cause problems for wheelchair users, such as pain and frustration, and highlights the need for new technologies to help people with restricted mobility.

The research was commissioned by ComRes on behalf of the Toyota Mobility Foundation to help better understand the experiences of wheelchair users as part of its Mobility Unlimited Challenge.

Polling wheelchair users in the UK, US, Japan, India and Brazil, the survey found that nearly a third of wheelchair users say they have felt frustrated because the design of their mobility device felt outdated.

A further 89 per cent reported to have experienced pain and discomfort as a result of their mobility devices, with forty-five per cent saying they experience back pain at least once a day; 31 per cent saying they suffer shoulder pain at least once a day and 29 per cent saying they have neck pain at least once a day.

Additionally, the study revealed that almost half of the number of people who use wheelchairs have needed assistance when travelling, while 43 per cent said they have been unable to find an accessible toilet when they needed one.

Furthermore, 31 per cent 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 said they have been declined entry to public transport.

Ryan Klem, Director of Programs for Toyota Mobility Foundation, said: “This research expresses the urgent need for innovation in this area. 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.”

Exploring the kinds of improvements that would be most helpful, the top five suggestions were to:

  1. Move around faster (41 per cent)
  2. Perform regular day-to-day tasks more easily (37 per cent)
  3. Feel more relaxed and comfortable with a device that is more natural to use and like an extension of themselves (37 per cent)
  4. Feel more confident and able to socialise and meet with friends (34 per cent)
  5. Enjoy a sense of spontaneity, freedom and independence (32 per cent)

Launched in November 2017, the Mobility Unlimited Challenge seeks teams around the world to create technology that can radically improve the mobility and independence of people with paralysis, which could include anything from exoskeletons, artificial intelligence and machine learning, to cloud computing and batteries.

Charlotte Macken of Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre said: “While the focus of this Challenge is lower-limb paralysis, we 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.”

Entries for the Challenge close on 15th August 2018 and the winners will be revealed in Tokyo in 2020.

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