April 16, 2016

UA Wheelchair Research Helps Children Across Alabama

No Comments Research, Resources for Athletes, Wheeled Athletes

Wilson Carr wanted to learn how to pop a wheelie.IMG_1182

He’s 21, has an infectious sense of humor and a clear hunger for life.

Carr also has holoprosencephaly, a form of cerebral palsy that involves physical spasticity and sometimes mental retardation. As a result of his condition, he uses a wheelchair. Maneuvering his chair isn’t easy.

With the help of Dr. Margaret Stran, associate director of the University of Alabama’s Adapted Athletics program, not only can Carr pop a successful wheelie, but he also has a comfortable wheelchair with more mobility and more knowledge of how to clean and maintain his chair.

Stran is conducting a study to improve the mobility and comfort for children in manual wheelchairs. The study is funded through a grant from the Christopher Reeve Foundation in 2014 and a substantial new donation given by the Tuscaloosa-based Moore Foundation. Carr is one of the research participants.

“If we can get people active just by adjusting their wheelchairs, it is going to impact their whole life,” said Stran.

Stran teaches children how to change and maintain different parts of their wheelchair, how to move in their chair and acts as a wheelchair seating consultant. Through her study, she can buy new manual wheelchairs or upgrade existing chairs for children in the Tuscaloosa area.

Michael Carr, Wilson’s father, was especially eager to learn of Stran’s research program last summer. Michael mentioned that wheelchair sales representatives give recommendations on which wheelchair to choose, but that is as far as the help goes for people and their wheelchairs. Carr did not know about sports chairs prior to meeting Stran.

“I had been looking for something like this for a long time,” said Michael, as Wilson infectiously giggled. “It has been everything and more that I had thought it would be.”

Stran describes her study as freeing and a way for children to feel at home in their wheelchairs. This amount of freedom and comfort is clear just from the amount of giggles and bright smiles from Wilson.

Stran’s program is informative and transformative and she does not plan on stopping.

Helping these children is Stran’s passion and she plans to continue the research and consulting long after the money runs out. Her recent partnership with Children’s

Rehabilitation Service will allow her to expand her reach, improve wheelchair setup, and continue as a mentor for many more children and families.


Stran is continually looking for more participants for her study. For more information, contact her at [email protected] or (205) 348-7991.

Article by Amanda Perrucci, UA

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