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Wheelchair dancing

National Star College teaches performing arts including wheelchair dance. Participants normally control their wheelchairs using a joystick, but the college was interested in developing a system that could include students who cannot use a joystick, because of conditions such as Cerebral Palsy or Spina Bifida. They contacted Remap Gloucestershire and the project was taken on by volunteers Martin Davitt and Tom Bradley.

The new system is based on gyro/accelerometer sensors attached to armbands and a headband. These sensors monitor the position of the arm or head, allowing the user to control the chair through the movement of these devices. An additional safety feature was to provide the dance instructor with a stop button, so that they can safely stop the wheelchair should the need arise. As normal with Remap projects, the college was involved at each stage of the design.

The project has been a great success, with students achieving great personal satisfaction through being able to express their response to the music through movement. This has built confidence and self-esteem. National Star College can now offer dance experiences to many more students than in the past. Martin and Tom are now working on an improved version.


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