A Tai Chi program designed for wheelchair users has helped bring the traditional Chinese martial and healing arts to people with ambulatory impairment. Details of this new method are described in the current issue of Technology and Innovation- Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors.

Developed by Zibin Guo, PhD, of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tenn, the 13 Posture Wheelchair Tai Chi incorporates 13 of the 24 Tai Chi movements. According to Guo, these postures can transform the wheelchair from an assistive device to a tool of empowerment and artistic expression. In the journal article, Guo cites a National Health Interview Survey that suggests that about 73% of Americans with disabilities have participate in little or no physical activity.

“Too often, social and cultural barriers discourage people with physical disabilities from participating in fitness activities,” Guo says. “Wheelchair Tai Chi can be practiced seated for those needing simple, low-impact, upper-body exercise by integrating wheelchair motion with the gentle, dynamic flowing movements of Tai Chi. It lifts spirits and gives a sense of command of space.”

The wheelchair Tai Chi postures are designed to allow a wide range of lower back and hip movements, as well as help promote upper body mobility and internal circulation. Moves include vertical and horizontal circles that can improve and stimulate the rotation and range of motion for the torso, waist, back, shoulders, arms, and wrists. 

A demonstration event from the 2008 Beijing Olympics/Paralympics Cultural Festive can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jR0DbXlS4GI

Source: Technology and Innovation- Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors