Ice Skating Chair

Designers: Keigo Kawaji, Eric Blatt, and Kalpana Sampale
Client Coordinators:  David Burns, Sue Cheng
Supervising Professor:  Larry Bohs

A skating chair was developed to allow individuals who use wheelchairs to safely participate in skate-in events organized by the Carolina Hurricanes NHL franchise. The device is a modified manual wheelchair on hockey skate blades that allows the participant to skate on ice with assistance.  The device includes a safety brake, which automatically stops the chair when the assistant releases a lever.  It is easy to operate by any experienced skater pushing from behind, and accommodates transfer between chairs on land.

The Ice Skating Chair gives an opportunity for current hockey fans in wheelchairs to participate in skate-in events, and may attract more fans in wheelchairs in the future.

The Ice Skating Chair (Figure 1) was constructed by modifying a standard manual wheelchair.  The rear wheels were replaced with skating blades, mounted parallel and 20″ apart.  These were bolted to a 1/4″ aluminum plate, which is bolted to the wheelchair frame. The blades were tilted on a 13-degree angle, using aluminum wedges, to recline the chair backwards for user safety and comfort. Handlebars, made from bent conduit and padded with foam insulation and fabric, were attached to the rear of the wheelchair.

A braking mechanism provides safety in the event that the pusher loses control of the chair. This mechanism consists of a rectangular bar of 1″ square steel tubing hinged on the front end and forced downward by a 70 lb compression spring at the rear.  The brake, a 5″ long metal plate, attaches to the bar 3.5″ from the point of rotation, so that it contacts the ice when at rest.  A bicycle cable attaches to the bar, and to a brake lever on the handlebars, so that the when the pusher releases the lever, the brake plate engages with the ice. The braking mechanism is calibrated by adjusting the cable length so that the brake rests on ice when the brake lever is released, and is lifted 1/2″ above the ice when the brake lever is depressed.

Pads protect the user and other skaters in the event of a collision. The front protector consists of youth size goalie pads (23″ x 11″), mounted to wooden panels that attach to tubing inserted in the wheelchair leg supports. The tubing is custom bent to support the front padding system, allowing it to swing open while a skater loads or unloads from the chair.  The tubing for each side joins in the center with a compression fitting, allowing for easy locking or unlocking.   The right cover uses Velcro to allow users to access the bolt to adjust the footrest height.  Custom side protectors attach to the wheelchair armrests, providing protection as well as extra support for the user’s arms. Finally, safety harnesses and supports for the neck, back, torso, pelvis, knee, and ankle are installed.

On-ice tests revealed that the chair glides smoothly, as long as the pusher does not exceed a maximum safe speed of about 8 mph.  Users can be transported off-ice by lifting on the rear handlebars and rolling the chair on the front wheels. Cost of parts was approximately $520.

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