How to choose the right seating for your wheelchair

It’s important to recognise that your wheelchair is both a mobility system (where the chair interacts with the environment), and a seating system (where the chair interacts with the user). As a seating system, the main consideration is how the wheelchair interacts with your body.

Wheelchair seating can be very complicated because of the way the seating components interact with each other, affecting posture, pressure, function and comfort.

The four interrelated goals in seating are:

  • Pressure management
  • Posture support
  • Functional capability
  • Comfort

Remember, a simple adjustment to one seating component may result in other components also needing to be adjusted – having a domino effect on your seating needs. For example, trialling an alternative pressure care cushion with a different profile or thickness may require height adjustments to the headrest, back support, armrests and footplates in order to maintain your level of pressure care, postural support, functional capacity and comfort.

For each adjustment, your therapist needs to consider the impact it has on these four goals, and discuss it with you. In cases where the optimisation of one goal conflicts with another, a compromise may be necessary to achieve the right seating combination for you.

Size, shape & function
Your therapist will also need to consider size, shape and function to help identify issues and choose the right seating for your needs.

  • Size – does the size of the wheelchair and the seating system accommodate your body measurements, providing suitable support and enable function?
  • Shape – does the wheelchair and seating system shape accommodate your body shape and range of motions, providing postural support and balance requirements?
  • Function – does the seating system enable you to function in your day-to-day life and access your environment and community?

Trials are essential
When it comes to choosing the right seating, a trial is usually the best way to go. A trial reveals potential problems in the seating and mobility systems, which must work together to allow you to interact with your environment and remain supported.

When different equipment is being trialled for comparison, remember that changing one component can require significant reconfiguration of the chair to create the same effective setup. For example, in a manual chair, changing from a rigid backrest to an upholstery backrest often results in a change of effective seat depth and wheelchair stability that should be corrected in order to make a fair comparison. Similarly, when trialling different cushion types, be aware of the effective height that that cushion has, as backrests, leg hangers and arm supports may need to be adjusted to accommodate any difference.

Problems can arise when the equipment that has been scripted differs from the equipment that was trialled. While there may be occasions where the preferred size or configuration of equipment is unavailable for trial, the closer the trial equipment is to that being scripted, the better.

Don’t give up!
Even with careful planning, there may be unexpected issues that only become apparent over time. But don’t be disheartened! Each trial provides more information to help understand the limitations and requirements of your seating needs.

Fine-tuning the seating configuration of a trial setup may be required to meet your needs and personal preferences. A small adjustment can often make the difference between a setup that works and one that doesn’t. Where possible, adjusting a single component at a time can help to establish whether there is a direct relationship between the cause and effect for a seating outcome.

Trust the seating experts at Power Mobility
Having the right seating solution for your wheelchair enhances your comfort, control, safety and overall well-being. At Power Mobility, we understand that everyone has unique seating requirements. That’s why we offer an extensive selection of quality cushions and backrests in a range of sizes and materials to suit your individual needs. And you can rely on our expert team to help you make the right choice from our range of trusted brands including Roho, Jay, Spex, Stealth, Star Cushions, Varilite, Equagel and Ottobock. So contact Power Mobility today to discuss the best possible seating solution for you.

An NDIS Registered Provider, Power Mobility provides the perfect combination of quality mobility products, personal service and expert advice. Widely regarded as the power chair specialists, Power Mobility also offers a wide selection of manual wheelchairs, scooters, lift chairs and much more. So give our friendly team a call on 07 3265 4663 or drop into our showroom in Geebung.