Domain: Research

Themes: Assistive & Accessible Technology

Power-up! - Fuelling the next generation of assistive technologies

Location: United Kingdom

A computer generated 3D model of a wheelchair on a blue chequered background.

Start date: 01 August 2016 End date: 31 July 2017

A power assist system attaches to a wheelchair to provide electrical power to help you self-propel the wheelchair. You can control that power by gently propelling or grabbing your wheels. As a carer/support worker, electrical power helps you push and pull the wheelchair by activating a switch.

We wanted to understand how and when manual wheelchair users need and use power assistance and how they would like it to look like. We have applied Fuel Cell technology to the humble wheelchair and calculated the power requirements of power assist devices that help carers/personal assistants to push a wheelchair. We have also talked with personal assistants to explore their needs and expectations of a power assist device, in order to improve their interaction with the device.

A collaboration with Oxford Brookes University has been developed from which the cognitive load related to the use of power assistance for manual wheelchair users versus no power assistance has been tested. Data is being currently analysed.


  • UCL
  • LLDC

Project Members:

Dr Dan Brett, Dr Catherine Holloway, Dr Dafne Zuleima Morgado Ramirez, Lara Rasha, Dr Giulia Barbareschi, Dr Tatsuto Suzuki, Iain McKinnon and Irving Caplan


James Dyson Foundation Summer School 2017 –“Redesign the Wheelchair” (Monday 17th July to Friday 21st July 2017): Dr Dafne Morgado Ramirez gave a 1 hour talk about the Power-up! project

Adjusted Method to Calculate an Electric Wheelchair Power Cycle: Fuel Cell Implementation Example (2019). Journal of Energy Storage. Under Review.

Electric wheelchair power and drive cycle November 2018. UK Data Service ReShare. ID 853486. Deposited and under review.

Morgado Ramirez DZ, Holloway C (2017) But, I Don’t Want/Need a Power Wheelchair”: Toward Accessible Power Assistance for Manual Wheelchairs. 19th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility

Morgado Ramirez DZ, Holloway C (2017) Manual wheelchairs are great! But… Third WHO Global Forum on Medical Devices, World Health Organization. May, Geneva

Barbareschi G, Brett D, Holloway C (2016) A new method to calculate electric wheelchair driving cycles, Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Orlando, Florida.

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