Power wheelchairs can empower children with physical limitations to gain independence in their everyday lives; however, traditional methods of power wheelchair training are often limited by poor accessibility and safety concerns. Immersive virtual reality technology (IVRT) uses advanced display technology to place users in a fully immersive web-based environment that can support real-time skills training, often requiring less resources and fewer safety concerns than real-world methods. IVRT interventions have shown to be a feasible training option among adult power wheelchair users; however, there is still a need to understand the technical and clinical feasibility of developing an IVRT power wheelchair training tool for the pediatric population.
This proposed study aims to use expert feedback and an iterative design process to develop an IVRT training intervention for pediatric power wheelchair skill development.
This 3-phase feasibility study will be conducted within the assistive technology unit of a public pediatric hospital. Separate participant groups will be recruited for each phase, consisting of approximately 10 to 15 clinicians (phase 1), 10 pediatric power wheelchair users (phase 2), and 15 to 20 additional pediatric power wheelchair users (phase 3). Phase 1 will be conducted to gather feedback on the baseline IVRT training intervention. Clinicians will test the intervention and assess its usability and acceptability using qualitative and quantitative methods. Phase 1 participants will also be invited back for a subsequent session to reassess a revised version of the training intervention that has been updated based on their previous feedback. Phase 2 and phase 3 will also use mixed methods to gather feedback on the usability, acceptability, and user experience of the IVRT training intervention from current pediatric power wheelchair users. In addition, phase 3 participants will perform a skills transfer assessment to compare power mobility skill performance between the virtual reality and real-life environments. Data gathered in phase 2 will be used to further refine the IVRT intervention, whereas phase 3 data will be used to statistically evaluate the final version.
This study was approved by the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre research ethics board in August 2021. Phase 1 testing began in February 2022. The entire study is expected to be completed by 2023.
The results of this study will be used to create an IVRT training intervention for pediatric power wheelchair skill development through an iterative and collaborative design process. Results may also assist in directing future studies in this area.