Investigating the efficacy of an innovative interactive technology for powered wheelchairs (MRes Scholarship)

Investigating the efficacy of an innovative interactive technology for powered wheelchairs

University of South Wales

Project ID: 21051
Annual Stipend: circa £11 k p.a.
Application Deadline: 29th July 2018

Here is an exciting opportunity to study a technology which could lead to entirely new approaches in powered wheelchair usage.

This is a funded MRes, including a generous stipend and tuition fees, with well-resourced circumstances for a successful scholarship.

The selected candidate will apply their data collection and analytical skills and ambition to assessing user attitudes and engagement with a new assistive technology. This mixed methods research project will allow the student to develop transferable knowledge and skills in this most exciting and active field of applied psychological research.

This Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS) project will be held in the Faculty Life Sciences and Education at the University of South Wales. KESS is a programme funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) awarded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) in the Welsh Government. The project will focus on an exciting new development in assistive technology for powered wheelchair users; one which provides clear feedback to users about their implementation of prescribed functions. This will allow the manufacturer to enhance the usability of their technology so that users can optimise their engagement with clinically prescribed seating functions, enhancing their quality of life and reducing the rate of health complications.

The project is backed by Invacare. Invacare is a leading disability manufacturer who has helped people with reduced function, mobility and disability live as full a life as possible since 1885. Today, Invacare has a comprehensive product range of mobility, home-care, long-term care and acute equipment.

Programme of research:

Recent research in social psychology has highlighted the important role group based identities have in improving the healthcare outcomes for people in different settings (Haslam 2014). This improves the predictive power of traditional models of health behaviour (Theory of Planned Behaviour; Ajzen, 1991; the Health Belief Model, Conner & Norman, 1996).  Further, the Theory of Planned Behaviour itself has been extended by the inclusion of different types of subjective norms; descriptive (those which say what most members of the group would do) and injunctive (those which say what most members of the group think a person should do).  This emphasises the importance of salient others in predicting intentions to behave in a certain way.  Additionally models of adopting new technology such as the Technology Acceptance Model and the Compatibility Adoption Model (see e.g. Yoo & Chen, 2016) highlight how judgements of suitability/compatibility by users or potential users can affect initial judgements of perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use and that these judgements in turn can influence intentions to adopt/continue to use the technology in question.

As developing a habitual pattern of engagement (e.g. Danner, Aarts & Vries, 2008) is essential for users to avoid negative outcomes (such as pressure ulcers) and for practitioners (to avoid having to provide treatment for preventable illnesses), assistive technology manufacturers have become increasingly interested in ways to monitor and support effective functioning of their products.  One such method is through the use of unobtrusive recording of data about powered wheelchair use.  While this is currently used primarily to monitor the continued functioning of the chair itself (e.g. by alerting the suppliers if maintenance is required), recent innovations allow for the users themselves to review/monitor and adjust their own usage patterns.  Tailored feedback has been shown to improve engagement with other health-related interventions (e.g. Marley, Bekker & Bewick, 2016) and examining user perceptions of the technology would be the first step towards creating an intervention at a later date based on social identity and tailored feedback.

We are currently conducting a project with powered and manual wheelchair users to explore the barriers and facilitating factors to overall compliance, however this project did not include those who have been specifically supplied with this monitoring technology.  Obtaining information about user perceptions will therefore be valuable for practitioners supporting users and for those manufacturing the technology.  Both groups will then be able to develop/amend either the technology itself, the way that outputs are displayed or the training and support for users in a timely and responsive way.

Studentship:

The studentship will cover the fees for a 1-year full-time MRes programme and pay a stipend of circa £11 k p.a. There is also around £3k project support costs available for consumables, travel, minor equipment, training (including the KESS Grad School) and conference attendance.

The position is available from 1st October 2018/1st January 2019

Eligibility of Student:

To be eligible to hold a KESS studentship, you must:

  • have a home address in the Convergence area (details below)* at the time of registration.
  • have the right to take up paid work in the Convergence area* on completion of the scholarship.
  • be classified by the University as ‘home’ or ‘EU’ for tuition fees purposes according to the University’s guidelines.
  • satisfy University of South Wales’s admissions criteria: see below, qualifications and experience and application process

*The Convergence area covers West Wales and the Valleys, and is made up of the following 15 local authorities: Isle of Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen.

Qualifications and experience:

Eligible applicants will:

  • Have a degree (2i or higher) in an appropriate discipline
  • Possess a reasonable understanding of qualitative and quantitative data collection
  • Be highly self-motivated, with capacity to learn and develop analytical techniques
  • Have well-developed and positively collaborative interpersonal skills
  • Have an ability to deliver technical reports and communicate findings
  • Be willing to travel and work in clinical and community support settings

Application Process: 

To download an application package, please visit: Participant Application Package

For queries on eligibility, please contact KESS Team: kess@southwales.ac.uk Tel: 01443 482578

For informal enquiries or further programme information, please contact: Dr Rachel Taylor (rachel.taylor@southwales.ac.uk) Further info: http://staff.southwales.ac.uk/users/449-rtaylor

Closing date for applications: midnight Sunday 29th July 2018  (Interviews 2nd August 2018)

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.