January 1, 2017
BACKGROUND: Because of the adverse environmental conditions present in less-resourced environments (LREs), the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that specialised wheelchair test methods may need to be developed to support product quality standards in these environments. A group of experts identified caster test methods as a high priority because of their common failure in LREs, and the insufficiency of existing test methods described in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Wheelchair Testing Standards (ISO 7176). OBJECTIVES: To develop and demonstrate the feasibility of a caster system test method. METHOD: Background literature and expert opinions were collected to identify existing caster test methods, caster failures common in LREs and environmental conditions present in LREs. Several conceptual designs for the caster testing method were developed, and through an iterative process using expert feedback, a final concept and a design were developed and a prototype was fabricated. Feasibility tests were conducted by testing a series of caster systems from wheelchairs used in LREs, and failure modes were recorded and compared to anecdotal reports about field failures. RESULTS: The new caster testing system was developed and it provides the flexibility to expose caster systems to typical conditions in LREs. Caster failures such as stem bolt fractures, fork fractures, bearing failures and tire cracking occurred during testing trials and are consistent with field failures. CONCLUSION: The new caster test system has the capability to incorporate necessary test factors that degrade caster quality in LREs. Future work includes developing and validating a testing protocol that results in failure modes common during wheelchair use in LRE.