Physical Therapy is a field that enables individuals to attain an improved state of being by way of physical activity, manipulation and development. My partner and I have paired up to achieve just that, but for individuals who are wheelchair-bound. Towards the end of the Spring semester, Professor James Laskin from the Physical Therapy Department sought out assistance with the development of a mobile application that would allow wheelchair users to track their fitness enhancement  and maintenance. What demographic? Almost any. Professor Laskin has worked with wheelchair athletes in his colorful past, and noticed a great need for applications we are currently developing.

Wheelchair users are frequently deemed handicapped and severely impaired. Although medical conditions or a prior accident may have caused their current states, it most certainly does not mean that physical fitness should and will suffer. Those capable and inspired enough to pursue a healthy lifestyle can certainly do so, within the realm of their realistic fitness capacity/potential. Those who are so inclined require methods of measurement and comparison in order to observe and track their progress. The purpose of our application is to allow wheelchair users to calculate their fitness level after conducting a standardized track test. The individual will push him/herself around a regulation size court (be it basketball, tennis, volleyball, track, soccer field) to the beat of a metronome for five fully sustained minutes. As the test concludes, a fitness score will be displayed. This score is determined by a combination of the severity of the patients’ disability level as well as the distance covered in the allotted test time.

Initially such a task does seem overwhelming, and initial meetings with Professor Laskin and Computer Science professor Mr. Cassens have proven that the programming involved and considerations that must be dealt with are not simple. First of all, the Android coding language must be mastered. The design must be applicable to a handheld device. Layouts must flow and panels should contain all the vital information necessary to make the product as user-friendly as possible. But the best approach may be to get things down on paper first.

The initial step of development is simple brainstorming, and that is exactly what our team has done. Professor Laskin has provided us with a list of essential requirements that should be found within the application in some form. It was then up to us to determine how best to integrate the elements. So we’ll head to the drawing board soon and determine what we want in and what is out.

We have been given the research that Laskin has conducted several years ago, and the information has helped us realize that the work we are attempting to accomplish will certainly serve our target population well. But it also has given us a framework to work within. It establishes the necessary components we must incorporate within the program, and facilitates our knowledge of the population we serve. The various levels of ‘disability’ are distinctly classified, an area of expertise we would have lacked without Laskin’s contribution and prior initiative.

My partner and I have everything we need and the guidance exists to support us throughout the summer. Our scholarships will be used to purchase coding textbooks and new equipment that can handle the computing power required to run design applications. We look forward to the challenges ahead and the necessary collaboration necessary to tackle such a large task. Our project will be on display (hopefully) in April of 2016 in Tacoma, where we hope our work will be accepted by those who the product is meant to assist.

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