The Elmobile – A Power Chair Use Assessment Vehicle

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The Elmobile – A Power Chair Use Assessment Vehicle

Client: UCP of Greater Birmingham – Children’s Daycare


The Elmobile was designed and fabricated for use by UCP staff for assessing the ability of children with cerebral palsy to operate a powered wheel chair.  Generally, insurance companies need written confirmation that a child can function properly and safely in a powered wheelchair, before the companies will cover the cost of a new wheelchair.

The form of the vehicle is more like a go-cart than a wheelchair (Figure 3). 14-gauge mild steel tubing was chosen which is strong yet lightweight and easy to cut, drill, bend and weld.  The go-cart like design incorporates the look of a toy but with the functionality of a wheelchair.  The device utilizes a Tumble Form® style feeder seat for ease of transition between children of different sizes and needs.  The seat mount incorporates a tilting mechanism to position the child depending on their needs. A motor assembly and joystick were already available through UCP from an existing power wheelchair.  The students constructed the drive assembly, including fenders that cover the entire drive assembly to keep out fingers and clothing, and to eliminate pinch points.  Foot restraints, a chest harness and a separate lap belt were added for safety.

The Elmobile was designed with other safety issues in mind.  One is the continuous curved frame surrounding the entire vehicle eliminating the possibility that a wheel might snag something and cause damage.  The vehicle is also equipped with a speed control device to allow for different skill levels of the children.  Most importantly the vehicle is equipped with an emergency shut off switch and a key.  The emergency shut off is easily accessible to allow power to be cut from the motors, thereby stopping the vehicle should the child get out of control.  The key allows the vehicle to be operated while under competent supervision only.  Total cost – approximately $900.

3 - Elmobile
Figure 3.  The Elmobile.  The top picture shows the device, including the seat adjustments and the joystick attachment.