REF2014 Impact Case Study: Improved mobility and quality of life for children with disabilities

    Impact: Health & Welfare Impacts, Economic & Commercial Impacts, Practitioner Impacts

    Description of impact

    Research at the University of Portsmouth (UoP) has created new user-friendly control, navigation and communication systems for powered-wheelchairs that have made a significant and positive impact on the lives of users. These have given many disabled children and adults an opportunity for independent mobility, some for the first time.

    Who is affected

    Wheelchair users; Specialist schools; NHS Trusts; Community groups


    Research at the UoP has resulted in new features for powered wheelchairs that included: effort-reduction, predictive and interactive Artificial Intelligence, so that children could drive for longer and in some cases for the first time. Research was based on many years of work by the Systems Engineering Research Group at the UoP into climbing and walking robots and automated guided vehicles.
    The systems have been used in six special schools and institutions (including RNIB and NHS) and many private homes. Economic impact in reducing the need for carers alone has been estimated at more than £250,000 p.a and the devices have also changed some professional services.
    Impact statusOpen
    Category of impactHealth & Welfare Impacts, Economic & Commercial Impacts, Practitioner Impacts
    Impact levelBenefit (delivered impact)


    • wheelchairs
    • disabilities
    • mobility


    • REF2014