Impact of wheelchair acquisition on social participation.

PURPOSE: Efficient mobility could be a prerequisite to carrying out many daily activities and social roles (social participation). The aim of this study was to assess the impact of wheelchair acquisition on social participation.

METHODS: Single group pre/post design where the intervention was the acquisition of a wheelchair paid for by the provincial government. Data were collected retrospectively from the participants’ medical files. Individuals were excluded if they received an assistive device other than a wheelchair or contacted the centre only for wheelchair repairs. Social participation was measured using the Reintegration to Normal Living Index (RNLI) questionnaire.

RESULTS: The sample (n = 42) had a mean age of 64.2 +/- 18.5 years, and 50% of them (n = 21) did not have a wheelchair before the intervention. The total RNLI scores pre- (46.9/100 +/- 24.7) and post-acquisition (29.7/100 +/- 18.5) showed a significant improvement in participation (p < 0.001). No difference was found between those who had their first wheelchair (n = 21) compared with replacement. Single-item analysis of the RNLI showed a significant difference for 5 of the 11 items. Age and diagnosis were significantly correlated (p < 0.05) with some of the items.

CONCLUSION: Social participation improved significantly following wheelchair acquisition although confounding variables may have contributed to this improvement.