Press Release: June 1, 1999
Experts from Organizations from Across the Nation Converged in Pittsburgh to Improve Wheeled Mobility Products
Over 90 manufacturers, researchers, clinicians, government officials, advanced technology developers and product customers with disabilities, collectively called "stakeholders", gathered in Pittsburgh, May 25-26, 1999, to pool their expertise in a "Stakeholder Forum on Wheeled Mobility". This event was conducted by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC) at the University at Buffalo, in Buffalo, New York and other sponsors. Its goal was to identify the unmet needs of the consumers who use wheelchairs or scooters and resolve them by employing advanced technologies from Federal Laboratories, or other sources. This process is "technology transfer": the application of existing technologies in new or novel ways. The anticipated outcome was that truly useful innovative equipment will reach the marketplace where it can better the lives of people with disabilities. The participants met with moderators in group sessions to identify the limitations of existing wheeled mobility products and their related components, and developed specifications for the technical solutions to make them better products.
In preparation for the Forum, a group of expert stakeholders examined the current state of wheelchairs and scooters (Overview of Wheelchairs and Scooters in the US), and defined four areas with significant potential for improving them through identifying and applying new or improved technologies. These four areas were (clicking on the following links delivers a PDF document to your computer): 1) Power Management and Monitoring; 2) Materials & Sub-Systems (such as tires, seats, and wheels); 3) Motors and Drive Trains; and 4) Manual Wheelchair Propulsion (such as, improved wheel "push rims"). The persons attending and participating in the discussions which took place are also listed.
Having studied "white papers" summarizing available information on the specific needs for improvement in the four target areas, each participant in the group sessions discussed two technology areas, to explore the needs in greater detail. The last session included a summary of the groups' discussions, the development of statements describing the existing problems, and the specifications for proposed technical solutions. After the Forum, the T2RERC will disseminate these specifications to Federal Laboratories, university research facilities and other industrial sectors which may have already developed, and be ready to transfer, the technical solutions sought. The resulting opportunities for technology transfer will be screened and offered to participating manufacturers for transfer or development. The white papers, Forum proceedings and technology search results will be published and disseminated to all participants who could utilize them.
The Coordinator of T2RERC's demand-pull Projects (efforts which are involved in ongoing work to determine the various needs to be satisfied by the transfer of technology), Dr. Stephen M. Bauer of the University at Buffalo, was organizer of the Stakeholder Forum.
T2RERC Project Director Joseph P. Lane spoke about the event's potential accomplishments. "The technology transfer process permits us to leverage investments which have already been made in the nation's science and technical base. As it will permit us to target specific technologies which require substantial improvement, we expect the Stakeholder Forum to generate opportunities for applying breakthrough technologies to the wheeled mobility industry."
The host of the event, Dr. Douglas Hobson, Co-Director of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheeled Mobility of the University at Pittsburgh, stated: "The Forum is an opportunity to bring together the principal players in new technological development with the consumers of wheeled mobility products to help channel their work in the directions that best meet the needs of the end users. Hopefully the employment of this technology will result in practical designs for marketable wheelchairs and scooters, ultimately improving the quality of the products offered to the customer - which is the mission of the RERC on Wheeled Mobility."
A discussion moderator and key participant in the Forum, Daniel L. Winfield, Senior Research Engineer of Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in North Carolina described his agency's contribution to the event. "A long-time participant in these information exchanges, RTI will be bringing to Pittsburgh a depth of knowledge gained in 35 years in the technology transfer field with adapting the innovations of the Federal Laboratories, NASA and other cutting-edge researchers. Our role in the Forum will be translating the needs of the stakeholders into technical problem statements for use in identifying the new technologies and design ideas, which can address those needs in a commercially viable product. It's a unique chance for equipment consumers, researchers, third-party reimbursement agencies, and company representatives who rarely meet face-to-face to understand the implications of these developments to each others' interests."
The event was also an exciting opportunity for the Forum participants, who benefited by: participating in a review of the state-of-the-art of wheeled mobility; helping to define new technology requirements; pursuing or reviewing the results of a search for desired technologies; identifying new commercialization, development and research opportunities; and networking with the other participants.
The Stakeholder Forum took place from 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday May 25th, to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday May 25th, at the Wyndham Garden Hotel, Pittsburgh University Place, on Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In addition to T2RERC, the event's sponsors include: T2RERC's funder, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education; and the Federal Laboratory Consortium Atlantic Region; in cooperation with: the RERC on Wheeled Mobility; Research Triangle Institute; and two T2RERC partner agencies in Buffalo: AZtech, Inc. and the Independent Living Center of Western New York.
For more information contact:
Link to and participate in a group discussion on Technology Transfer that has been set up since the Stakeholder's Forum occurred.
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Last Updated: 3-2-2006