Most of us have had some experience in watching someone getting around an a wheelchair. Unless you have had the experience yourself, it is very difficult it can be one has to manage this for more than a few days or weeks. Much of the difficulty can be attributed to poorly fitting chairs or inappropriate seating surfaces. When it comes to long term use, standardized chairs are really one-size-fits-few. If you a use a wheelchair as your main mode of locomotion, it may be well worth it to get a customized chair that fits your specific measurements.
There are many components to a wheel chair, which leads to many options for potential fitting problems. The seats can be too narrow, and pinch the flesh. They can be too wide, and make it difficult to reach the wheels or utilize the arm rest. The seats can be too deep or high, and force shorter people to have to slouch to make their feet touch the floor. Standardized chairs do not provide the trunk and head support that many people require. Poor seating surfaces can result in pressure ulcers, breathing difficulties, and pain. Getting into and out of the a poorly equip chair can be very difficult or unsafe.
It is important that your wheelchair has both the right proportions and the right adaptations to make it usable and to make your living areas accessible. The ideal sitting position for most people in a wheelchair follows the 90-90-90 rule. (90° bend in the hips, 90° bend in the knees, 90° bend in the ankle.) This allows for:
- the arms to properly reach and propel the wheels;
- the feet to fully reach the floor and assist with propelling;
- promotes best posture for comfort, visibility, breathing and digestion;
- prevents pressure ulcers;
- provides needed trunk and head support for balance and safety;
- safe transfers into and out of the chair.
Many insurances cover customized wheelchairs and often require a physical therapy or occupational therapy wheelchair fitting for approval. During a PT/OT therapy wheelchair fitting the therapist works with an expert from the wheelchair company to make sure that the most ideal chair to meet the client’s everyday needs is ordered.
Your body measurements are taken, and your posture is assessed in detail. Your medical conditions, endurance, and daily activities are all taken into consideration so that the best recommendations can be made to optimize your function and make you as independent as possible.