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What is Involved with Fitting a Wheelchair?

A common item requested in personal injury lawsuits are wheelchairs, both for short and long term use. It is important to understand why proper fittings are essential for comfort, usability and to prevent further injuries from wheelchair misuse.

Why do Wheelchairs need a fitting?

Most people dependent on a wheelchair sit for an average of 11 hours per day, according to New Mobility. Similar to bicycles and cars not being designed for this longterm use, neither is a wheelchair that hasn’t been custom fitted and adjusted. Besides comfort, the surface of a wheelchair needs to prevent or avoid skin breakdown and pressure injuries.

Compared to cars sales of almost three million each year, there are only about 20,000 power wheelchairs and another 20,000 high efficiently manual wheelchairs produced each year in the US. Each wheelchair goes through product testing and approval by the FDA before it is available to sale.

Who does the fitting?

Seating assessments are done by physical therapy or occupational therapists and this takes about 1.5 hours on average. Special adjustments by an Assistive Technology Professions (ATP) are required if there is a cushion, special back, or if it is a power wheelchair or ultra-lightweight wheelchair. ATP’s deliver the chair at the client’s home and spend time teaching wheelchair use and assessing the home for doorway width and access issues.

Maintenance

ATP’s are available for emergency repairs such as a flat tire or non-functioning technology. Even after hours, many technologists will make home visits to get the wheelchair user “back up and running.”

Resources:
ATP Eligibility Requirements: www.resna.org/get-certified/exam-eligibility-requirements

Manual Wheelchair Use: Bouts of Mobility (sitting time per day): www.hindawi.com/journals/rerp/2012/753165/

National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers: www.nrrts.org

Characteristics of Power Wheelchair Use  https://scireproject.com/evidence/rehabilitation-evidence/wheeled-mobility-and-seating-equipment/

Cost of Wheelchairs and Components: http://www.newmobility.com/2016/04/true-wheelchair-cost/