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The Industry Profile on Wheeled Mobility


An industry profile is a collection of knowledge pertaining to a “market,” and the “industry” serving this market. The commonly used phrase “wheeled mobility” connected to both a market and an industry is undefined. However, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) includes “using a wheelchair” to describe “devices designed to facilitate moving or [to] create other ways of moving around,” i.e., mobility. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), classifies wheelchairs as medical devices with wheels that are “intended for medical purposes to provide mobility to persons restricted to a sitting position.”

For the purpose of this profile, the “wheeled mobility market” includes “persons who use manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs or scooters on a full- or part-time basis; and it includes the structures and processes that enable these products to reach their intended market.” The “wheeled mobility industry” includes “manufacturers of wheelchairs and scooters, and components and accessories of these devices, and the suppliers of these products, components and accessories.”

The Industry Profile is an accessible compilation and presentation of available knowledge on the wheeled mobility industry and marketplace. It is intended to be a reference document for policy makers, clinicians, suppliers, manufacturers, researchers, market analysts and students.

The Industry Profile is divided into three parts: the Overview, Expert Contributions and Stakeholder Perspectives. The Industry Profile draws from secondary sources such as published research, trade journals, manufacturer websites, product literature and public databases. It also draws from primary sources, including expert interviews, consumer focus groups and expert-authored chapters.

The Overview comprises this introduction and two chapters pertaining to market demographics and a comparative market analysis.

•  The Market Demographics chapter includes data sources, manual wheelchair, power wheelchair and scooter usage, market growth trends and projections, and market share by product type. Device usage is discussed from the perspective of age, gender, race, ethnicity, employment status and income level. Industry leaders, their market share and trends are discussed. Important gaps in market research, data and terminology are identified. Recommendations are made on how these gaps might be closed. The company profiles include a listing of wheeled mobility manufacturers, their market segments, product lines and contact information.

•  The Comparative Analysis chapter compares and contrasts the perspectives of wheeled mobility users (obtained through focus groups) to the perspectives held by manufacturers, suppliers, clinicians, and researchers (obtained through expert interviews). Especially considered are the strengths and weaknesses of current products and needs for future technologies and products.

The Expert Contributions comprise five chapters written by wheeled mobility content experts. These chapters include legislation and funding, standards, wheelchair transportation safety, accessible public transportation and interpretive overview.

•  The Legislation and Funding chapter describes the current third-party payment system for wheeled mobility devices. It discusses the impact of third-party payment on manufacturers , suppliers, clinicians and product end-users.

•  The Standards chapter presents the history and rationale for industry, voluntary, regulatory and international standards. The chapter contains an excellent, detailed presentation on the standards-development process. The authors argue that standards benefit users of mobility devices, clinicians, researchers, mobility device manufacturers and healthcare funding agencies.

•  The Wheelchair Transportation Safety chapter discusses key elements of safe transportation for wheelchair-seated passengers within public and private environments. It presents current voluntary industry standards and their application to wheelchairs and restraints. Future development of standards for seating, private vehicles and buses is covered. The chapter closes with practical challenges to standards compliance and future research directions.

•  The Accessible Public Transportation chapter argues that safe and accessible public transportation enables individuals with disabilities to participate fully in education, employment, recreation, independent living and other essential life activities. A logical, abstract and comprehensive model for public transportation systems is used to frame all discussion in this chapter.

•  The Interpretive Overview chapter presents the holistic nature of wheeled mobility service delivery. Discussion spans clinician education, research and development, service delivery administration and refinement, standards and guidelines for practice, devices and service delivery, terminology, outcome measures, knowledge translation and medical standards of care.

The Stakeholder Perspectives comprises three chapters on research perspectives, clinician's perspectives, supplier's perspectives and parent's perspectives.

•  The Research Perspective chapter includes results from the 2007 Mobility Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, State of the Science Conference. Four critical research needs are discussed for both mobility and for seating/posture.

•  The Clinician's Perspective chapter describes the knowledge of human function, clinical evaluation skills and knowledge of product features that are aspects of the services provided by occupational and physical therapy practitioners. Mobility devices enable individual to complete activities of daily living and engage in valued occupations. The critical role of clinicians in obtaining appropriate mobility devices is described.

•  The Supplier's Perspective chapter examines the process by which individuals with mobility impairments obtain mobility devices. The chapter considers the roles of manufacturers, suppliers, and clinicians in this process. Types and sources of mobility devices and funding for their purchase are discussed. The future impact of competitive bidding (required by the Medicaid Modernization Act) is considered.

•  The Parent's Perspective chapter considers the roles and perceptions of parents, as mothers and fathers, as advocates and as caregivers. Pediatric mobility devices and special considerations pertaining to mobility for children are discussed. The chapter concludes with general and specific recommendations for pediatric mobility devices.

The Industry Profile on Wheeled Mobility is a first step toward a comprehensive and accessible, compilation and presentation of knowledge pertaining to the wheeled mobility market and industry. Some critical topics are well covered, while other topics receive little attention. An important contribution of the Industry Profile is to identify gaps in knowledge where further research is needed. It is our hope that the 2009 Industry Profile on Wheeled Mobility will serve as an embryo from which a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the wheeled mobility market and industry can grow.

The Industry Profile on Wheeled Mobility is available in an accessible format on the T2RERC website at http://t2rerc.buffalo.edu/ . The Industry Profile will also be available through the affiliated websites of contributing authors. A listing of all sites and forms of dissemination will be listed on the T2RERC website.

Additonal information: Abstract, Table of Contents and Acknowledgement

Download: The Industry Profile on Wheeled Mobility (PDF)

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