Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2016

Thesis Advisor(s)

Krystyna Gielo-Perczak; Yen Chih-Huang

Honors Major

Biomedical Engineering


Biomechanics and Biotransport | Biomedical Devices and Instrumentation | Other Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering


Engineers must consider a number of aspects of every project they work on. Accessibility is one aspect that presents a unique challenge. Rather than being based on absolute material parameters, accessibility is based on how people interact with technology and their built environment. Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has been the predominant standard in accessibility because of its wide reach and legal mandate. In addition to the ADA, the ASTM and the Institute for Universal Design offer helpful guidelines for designing for accessibility. However, in addition to standards, guidelines, and recommendations, it is important to consult the intended users of a project in order to best meet their needs because standards do not always take into consideration important factors, such as social context, target user demographics, and intended use environment.

As a case study in these considerations, the wheelchair roller is presented. Wheelchair rollers are a device that allow wheelchair users to exercise indoors, similar to how a treadmill allows people to walk or run indoors. This project was designed for the Hospital for Special Care under the Nielsen Grant as a part of their new wheelchair fitness room. This wheelchair roller was to be designed for a wide range of users and abilities, from people who are overweight and just beginning to exercise and become fit to those who are elite athletes looking to train indoors.

This paper will look at the ADA, ASTM, and Universal Design standards for accessibility. It will compare their strengths and weaknesses from the points of view of both engineers and the disability community, and how they should be used in engineering design. Then, the design of the wheelchair rollers will be presented in a case study; how different aspects of these standards were incorporated into the design; and how it was necessary at times to go beyond the written standards to meet the client’s needs for accessibility.