Oklahoma Chapter Pushes for Foot Safety

There isn’t much that is sexy about foot safety, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. The Oklahoma chapter is working hard to raise awareness about just how important it is for wheelchair users and people with spinal cord injuries and disorders to make sure that their footplates are safe and don’t unnecessarily endanger their health. “We’re trying to start a discussion about the alarming rate of injuries caused by the rotating front casters on certain power wheelchairs,” says Willis Washington, chapter president. “It’s amazing, almost every person you talk to says, ‘Yeah, I’ve gotten my foot caught.’”

Washington says that based on a number of casual conversations with users of qualifying power chairs, almost half of them said they had caught their feet in the casters or received medical care to treat injuries suffered. That includes a number of extended hospitalizations for injuries that required multiple visits. Washington and the chapter recently presented their findings to the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America in hopes of enlisting the organization’s support and expertise about solving the problem. The decision to take the issue to RESNA came after the chapter received a disappointing amount of interest from manufacturers. “If we can’t get the manufacturers or the contractors to do anything, we decided we had to go above them,” says Washington. “Hopefully this will make a difference in the end.”

Washington’s presentation explained the problems with a series of pictures showing how easy it is for users’ feet to slip off the footplate and get caught in the casters. It also showed a simple possible fix that RESNA could push manufacturers to include in future designs. “We got a really positive reception,” says Washington. “We just need to keep on this, keep ra