Wheelchair Skills Capacity and Performance of Manual Wheelchair Users With Spinal Cord Injury

R. Lee Kirby*, Lynn A. Worobey, Rachel Cowan, Jessica Presperin Pedersen, Allen W. Heinemann, Trevor A. Dyson-Hudson, Mary Shea, Cher Smith, Paula W. Rushton, Michael L. Boninger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objectives: To describe the wheelchair skills capacity and performance of experienced manual wheelchair users with spinal cord injury (SCI) and to assess measurement properties of the Wheelchair Skills Test (WST) and Wheelchair Skills Test Questionnaire (WST-Q). Design: Cross-sectional descriptive study involving within-subject comparisons. Setting: Four Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems centers. Participants: Manual wheelchair users with SCI (N=117). Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: WST and WST-Q version 4.2 as well as measures for Confidence, Basic Mobility, Independence, Ability to Participate, Satisfaction, and Pain Interference. Results: The median (interquartile range) values for WST capacity, WST-Q capacity, and WST-Q performance were 81.0% (69.0%–90.0%), 88.0% (77.0%–97.0%), and 76.0% (66.3%–84.0%). The total WST capacity scores correlated significantly with the total WST-Q capacity scores (r=.76; P<.01) and WST-Q performance scores (r=.55; P<.01). The total WST-Q capacity and WST-Q performance scores were correlated significantly (r=.63; P<.001). Success rates were <75% for 10 of the 32 (31%) individual skills on the WST and 6 of the 32 (19%) individual skills on the WST-Q. Regression models for the total WST and WST-Q measures identified statistically significant predictors including age, sex, body mass index, and/or level of injury. The WST and WST-Q measures correlated significantly with the Confidence, Basic Mobility, Independence, or Pain Interference measures. Conclusions: Many people with SCI are unable to or do not perform some of the wheelchair skills that would allow them to participate more fully. More wheelchair skills training may enhance participation and quality of life of adults with SCI. The WST and WST-Q exhibit good content, construct, and concurrent validity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1761-1769
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2016


  • Motor skills
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Wheelchairs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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