Electric wheelchairs are not one-size-fits-all products, so a proper fitting is required at the time of delivery to the person who will use the chair. Prior to ordering an electric wheelchair, a physician or therapist will conduct an in-person evaluation of the patient. During the evaluation, the clinician will decide if a complex rehab technology product would benefit the patient and may write a prescription for one. In addition, the clinician takes various measurements of the person’s body to determine things like wheelchair seat width and depth, length of footplates, and much more.
Many times, a therapist will work in conjunction at the seating clinic with an Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) who works for an accredited complex rehab technology company. ATPs are certified through RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America). The assessment helps determine which motorized wheelchair and components will benefit the patient the most.
The purpose of a custom fitting is to assess exactly how the power wheelchair fits a person when he or she sits in the chair. A fitting for a motorized wheelchair is imperative because an improperly fitted one can cause various problems with a person’s skin integrity, breathing, swallowing, and digestion. The ATP will assess the seat width, seat depth, seat height, backrest height, backrest width, and armrest height. At this time, adjustments will be made to the motorized wheelchair to ensure proper positioning and comfort of the user. In addition, the ATP will check to make sure the correct items were ordered and delivered, and that all components on the chair operate as they are supposed to.
During the fitting, the ATP also teaches the user how to properly use and maintain his or her motorized wheelchair. This goes beyond just handing a patient the owner’s manual for his or her power wheelchair. The ATP should make sure the user is positioned correctly and able to comfortably drive the electric wheelchair and operate its features. The patient should develop an understanding of how often to charge the power wheelchair’s batteries, how to clean it, and when to contact his or her provider for maintenance.