Seating and Positioning – Achieving the right posture



This week’s blog comes to you from the sky as we head to Melbourne, for Australia’s first ever Oceania Seating Symposium! We are excited to have this conference here in Australia. If you’re attending, please stop by and say hello. Rachel has two clinical presentations and we are both also presenting on the product stage. I will share a few conference highlights next week but for this week’s discussion we will continue with a seating theme.

Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT) and associated kyphosis are one of the most common and avoidable seating positions. When we talk about the pelvis being the foundation in sitting, we are referring to supporting the pelvis in a neutral position, but is this all about the cushion? … yes and no! The cushion can assist in maintaining a neutral position but if there is a tendency for a reducible PPT the primary point of control is the posterior aspect of the pelvis, so essentially comes from the backrest. Before we delve deeper into this point of control lets look at some common causations of PPT based on the equipment provided and how a cushion can assist or work against the goal.

Identifying some common causations of PPT

The most common causation in an equipment induced PPT is when the seat depth is too long. This is a crucial measurement. If it is longer than the femoral length (Popliteal to behind Glutes with neutral as possible pelvis) the user has no choice but to roll back into PPT to gain back support. Think about your big deep comfy couch. This is often designed with a long seat depth. Think about the functional activities we do on couch…its more about relaxation. When we sit on this deep seat length and we can’t sit back any further whilst still having our knees in a flexed position, our pelvis must roll back into a PPT for us to have contact on the backrest. The same happens in a wheelchair seat.


The other time we frequently see PPT is when we have not accommodated shortened hamstrings or reduced hip flexion. In these instances the seat to back angle and/or the hanger angle of the leg rests need to meet the users needs and postural requirements, if these do not meet the range of motion (ROM) identified within the MAT assessment of the user there is often a constant postural battle with PPT as the consequence.

The Cushion

As discussed earlier the seat depth is crucial and as such the cushion is also important. We need to ensure that the cushion depth and placement match the user’s measurements. When considering the product parameters of the cushion we need to pay attention to the Ischial well and ledge. In some modular cushions there are some IT adjustment options (where the ledge is located and how deep the well is) ideally you want the ledge to be just in front of the ITs to assist in reducing them from rolling back towards PPT. The depth of the well and the materials in the well also need to be considered in relation to the positioning and support requirements. Placement of a pelvic belt will also assist in supporting the pelvis and are part of the point of control solution.

So, what happens when you have an end user who has an appropriate seat depth, a reducible PPT and you have determined the ROM is appropriate. Where is the point of control to correct this positioning and support a neutral pelvis?

Just as our back is not flat, the contours of the backrest should be such that they support the end users shape and postural tendencies. In paediatric seating we may be further trying to assist in the development of the natural curves within the spine.

If the wheelchair is for occasional use, an upholstery backrest may meet the goals and needs of the user, however if the wheelchair is used for all mobility or functional tasks it is essential to consider alternatives. For some users this may mean a tension adjustable upholstery backrest which can be adjusted to provide support as required however for many a rigid backrest will be needed to provide the best support. Assessors and prescribers need to be aware of how to appropriately provide support with a rigid backrest to assist in the clinical reasoning process. For some backrests we can adjust the angle of support within the mounting bracketry and if the user has trunk innovation this may be enough. For some users, a pelvic block cut from a firm foam and placed under the backrest padding can make a significant difference. Other options have bespoke adjustments such as the Boa system within the Acta backrest, which uses a reel and cable system to provide supportive contours. If more contouring is required consideration of a customisable backrest where you can build a pelvic block into the backrest such as using the BAC system with the Dreamline backs may provide the contouring and positioning chosen. Essentially it is dependant on the degree of impairment and overall presentation on how aggressive and what type of supports are required. In all instances however we are trying to provide a rear low force that assists in pushing the pelvis from PPT towards neutral as the primary point of control and then provide opposite and equal forces to maintain using the cushion and pelvic belt.

If you want more info on seating and positioning, please contact us. We have a range of workshops to assist you in your learning goals.






Proximal Stability – Distal Ability


In the world of therapy, we often hear the phrase, “Proximal Stability before Distal Ability”. Essentially, this is a principle of movement and relates to the development of core strength and stability at the trunk to promote movement and based on foundation concepts of kinematic chains.

The concept of kinematic chains was initially proposed by Franz Reuleaux, a mechanical engineer, in 1875. (F.Reuleaux, Kinematics of Machinery,1875). 80 years later, Dr. Arthur Steindler expanded upon Reauleax’s work and applied the concept to the human body and movement. Dr Steindler, MD, orthopaedic clinician and educator proposed that the extremities are rigid, overlapping segments in series and he defined the kinetic chain as a “combination of several successively arranged joints constituting a complex motor unit.” (Ellenbecker TS, Davies GJ. Closed kinetic chain exercise: a comprehensive guide to multiple joint exercise. Human Kinetics; 2001)


The human kinetic chain refers to the interrelated groups of body segments, connecting joints, and muscles working together and the portion of the spine to which they connect. Optimal movement requires structural alignment of the skeletal system and joints, and neuromuscular control. Impairment within any of these systems can affect movement. The upper kinetic chain consists of the fingers, wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, shoulder blades, and spinal column. we must first have a stable chain of muscles that run from our core muscles to our shoulder to our elbow, wrist and then to our fingers.

We will now focus on the upper kinetic chain and the provision of assistive technologies to support proximal stability and consequently increase functional positioning in a wheelchair. So how can we support or create proximal stability and enable increased functional positioning?



For wheelchair users we need to first consider the foundation of the spinal column in a seated position, the pelvis. Correction of a reducible pelvic obliquity or rotation is one of the ways we can promote a stable base of support. When completing a seating assessment, it is important to consider the pelvis position in all planes and use sound clinical reasoning to identify the points of control. This in turn helps us identify the required product parameters of the seating which will assist in identifying appropriate seating options. 

Seat depth and width also need to be considered in order to gain proximal stability. If the seat is too wide the pelvis may lose lateral stability, too short or too long and it may be difficult to maintain a neutral pelvis in the sagittal plane. Last week’s blog looked at pelvic positioning belts which when correctly positioned can assist in pelvic stability.

Once the pelvis is stabilised, we can look to the trunk. For individuals that present with spinal asymmetry, when the posterior of the trunk is supported with appropriate contouring, we often find that the lateral supports don’t have to ‘work as hard’ resulting in less force being required.

For manual wheelchair users the chair configuration can also assist with Proximal stability;  “When a person has paralysis, hypotonia, incomplete motor coordination, an amputation, fatigue, impaired sitting balance, and they are unable to use their hip, thigh and trunk muscles for balance, the wheelchair or the seating system must do it for them. Seat slope creates that passive pelvic stability through the configuration of the wheelchair which allows the person to have better upper extremity function and endurance to perform their daily tasks.” (see Permobil USA Blog for more information on how seat slope and ergonomic seat can assist with proximal stability )

For power wheelchair users, proximal stability can assist in better control in chair operation. Arm rests should be at a height that stabilises the forearm with the shoulder in a neutral position; it is harder for many users to have fine motor control when the shoulder is abducted. If you have good proximal stability and the capacity for independent mobility but still struggling to control the mobility base, then consideration should initially look at a centre-mounted joystick position. This enables further stability of the more proximal shoulder and elbow joints, sometimes you may need to consider alternative access methods.



If you want more information on seating and positioning or mobilising wheelchairs, please contact me or alternatively Rachel, as Clinical Education Specialists we are here to assist you in ongoing educational opportunities including webinars, workshops, courses and one-on-one support. If you found this blog useful please feel free to share the link with others and sign up so you don’t miss future ones.





Restraint or Enabler...Part of the prescription or an afterthought?


Over the past decade the debate has continued around the world…is a pelvic belt a restraint and therefore classified as a restrictive practice? Or is it part of the seating solution supporting functional postural positioning? This week we will look at the definitions of restrictive practice, restraint and the functions of pelvic belts.

Within the clinical reasoning process of a seating assessment, we need to identify points of control. If we consider the movements of the pelvis in the coronal plane we know that a neutral or a slight Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT) is a more functional position than Posterior Pelvic Tilt (PPT). When a belt is applied to assist in maintaining a neutral position, we refer to this as a postural support, therapeutic support, (note the word support) or an enabler because by providing support we are enabling function.



With the pelvis as the foundation think about how we can successfully increase distal ability…by providing proximal stability! It is also important to understand these types of supports and postural needs so that this can be appropriately explained to our clients. They can then make an informed choice around their equipment options.

Pelvic positioning belts are often seen as being a safety belt, this is likely due to the use of seat belts in motor vehicles. In a motor vehicle the belt is a restraint, its sole purpose is to restrain someone in the seat in an accident. If a wheelchair is being used as a seat in a motor vehicle for travel the positioning belt does not negate the requirement of a seat belt in the vehicle. They each have a different purpose!

“Restrictive practices are defined as any type of support or practice that limits the rights or freedom of movement for a person with a disability”. There are 6 types of restrictive practices recognised:

• Seclusion
• Mechanical
• Chemical
• Physical
• Psycho-social
• Environmental

We will now focus on the two areas of restrictive practice that are often referred to with the application of pelvic belts – physical and mechanical.

• A physical restraint is the use or action of physical force to prevent, restrict or subdue movement      of a person’s body, or part of their body, for the primary purpose of influencing their                    behaviour. (

• This is when something is put on a person to stop or make it harder for the person to move or to       control their behaviour.

• Sometimes a device is put on a person to help them to move or to stay healthy. This is called a          ‘Therapeutic Device’. This type of device is OK as it can help reduce pain, improve health or help        the person do an activity.



It is OK to use a therapeutic device when a health professional like a doctor or occupational therapist has approved it. The person with disability also needs to say it is OK. (Voluntary Code of Practice for the Elimination of Restrictive Practices – Disability Services Commission / WA Government)


Both definitions relate to behaviour and if being used in this way they meet the definition of restrictive practice. So, when is a pelvic belt a restraint and when is it an enabler…?


Ask yourself the following question:




We know that there are facilities out there that have very stringent restrictive practice policies that continue to impact on the prescription of a therapeutic support. It is still crucial that if you have identified the need for a positioning support, that you own it! Don’t include the recommendation based on being told that the facility has a restrictive policy and will not allow belts. Best practice indicates that you still make the recommendation and document the reasons how it will enhance function.

If you want more information on positioning supports, we offer educational workshops on seating and positioning and are always available to help you. Feel free to contact me at



Tracee-lee Maginnity
Clinical Education Specialist

Tracee-lee Maginnity joined Permobil Australia/New Zealand in July 2019, as a clinical education specialist. She graduated Auckland University of Technology with a BHSc (Occupational Therapy) in 2003 and has since worked in various roles related to seating and mobility including assessing, prescribing and educating.

Tracee-lee is passionate about maximising functional outcomes with end users and the importance of education within the industry.


A Thief Gave Me The World




This week we're pleased to feature Robbie Vance and his uplifting account of how getting his power wheelchair opened the door to opportunities and helped him recover many parts of his life that facioscapulohumeral (FSH) muscular dystrophy had taken away. 


I fought it. The symbol of weakness sat by itself in the guest room where I never went. Whenever I struggled to walk past the door, I purposefully averted my eyes, looking down or away. I did anything I could to avoid dealing with the wheelchair the young guy delivered in October of 2007. It was an ominous sign of my fading independence that I hated both for its invasion of my house and what it stood for.

My thirtieth birthday came just days before the chair became my unwelcome roommate. From the time I was a six-year-old playing tee ball, facioscapulohumeral (FSH) muscular dystrophy had been stealing from me. It started by stealing my ability to run and play like the other kids. Then, it stole my ability to raise my hand over my head to be recognized in class. It took my ability to get up off the ground when I would trip and fall. I tripped and fell more often because it stole my balance and my ability to pick up my feet sufficiently when I walked. It stole my self-confidence through the embarrassment that resulted from my public displays of physical awkwardness. It stole my ability to climb stairs followed by my ability to get up out of a chair without great effort. It stole my desire to go places in public like restaurants or movies where I was sure everybody would be pointing at me and whispering to their friends about the crippled guy. It took my ability to fit in, to go somewhere and not be noticed, to not be viewed with fear or pity, to not be the guy that people are afraid to approach, to not be assumed to be mentally challenged because I can’t do the Macarena. 

Before going out into the world, I did a cost-benefit analysis of the calculated risks and levels of reward. Whatever I wanted or needed basically had to be accessible from my truck window or it had to come to me. I would only go to work or to visit friends and family where I knew there wouldn’t be any major impediments to my limited mobility. If I needed food, it was delivered, came from a drive thru, or I would go to Mom’s kitchen across town. These limitations caused me to gain a good bit of weight, unfortunately. Eating mostly fast food and pizza, coupled with my inability to exercise, exacerbated a vicious cycle where the extra weight made it harder to get around which made me exercise less which made me gain weight and on and on.

I rarely let anyone take my picture or videotape me. If I didn’t have to see my physical awkwardness, I wouldn’t be reminded of it, and I wouldn’t have to deal with it. But inevitably, I would trip and fall or something else embarrassing would happen, and the reality of my diminished physical capabilities would kick me squarely in the jaw.

While the necessary daily activities like getting out of bed and getting dressed for work got more and more difficult for me as the days, months, and years passed, I tried not to let it show. I was fiercely independent and pressed my insistence to remain independent much further than I probably should have. I should have been using my chair a long time before I did, but it sat in my guest room for the first few months after being delivered, being used for nothing more than the infuriating target of my disdain, the harbinger of my inevitable future as a helpless cripple. I should have taken many other steps to deal more realistically with my needs much earlier than I did, but I was hard-headed, as is the case with many in my red-bearded Irish lineage.

The first time I used my chair in public was on December 29, 2007. It was a cold, clear day with a stiff breeze blowing from the northwest and swirling through the Liberty Bowl stadium in Memphis. Dad and I drove up for the late afternoon kick off to see our alma mater, Mississippi State, beat the University of Central Florida in the first bowl game I’d ever been to and the first football game I’d been to since I was in grad school.

The temperature nose-dived as the sun dropped below the rim of the stadium, and the game didn't provide much of a distraction from the spreading frostbite as it was a real snoozer. Despite not being able to feel my feet or lower legs, I had a great time just being somewhere new, and I even hated my wheelchair a little less than I did before we left home that morning. It was the first time I’d been able to get around without struggling and exhausting myself in a good many years.

My football outing changed my attitude toward my inanimate roomie. While I wasn’t ready to be friends just yet, I didn’t want to shove a grenade in its figurative tailpipe ether. Progress is progress. Right?

In January 2009, I received a promotion at work, and one of my new job responsibilities was to organize a meeting involving the Governor and a few other high-level elected state officials. This meeting was to take place in February in the Governor’s conference room, which was in a building a few hundred yards away from my office. It was too far for me to walk, and parking near the building wasn’t abundant. So, I decided it was time to bust out the new ride and roll in my office like I didn’t give one single damn what anybody thought about me showing up in a chair. 

All it took was that one day to change my outlook, and not just on the chair that I’d come to view with apprehension—already a step up from it being the vile demon waiting to steal everything that FSH hadn’t already absconded with. That day, the world opened up to me with opportunities abounding. I began exploring the places that I’d been unable to go on foot like the local Braves minor league ballpark, restaurants that don’t serve food in waxed paper, Styrofoam, and cardboard, college football games at my alma mater, concerts, dates, and most anywhere else you can think of—except shopping. I still prefer online shopping. #freeshipping

Last summer I sat down in my 3rd power chair, an all-black Permobil F5 Corpus VS that is by far the most comfortable seat I’ve ever owned. Then, a few weeks later, I did the most out of character thing I’ve ever done, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. I took a trip to Nashville to visit Permobil and have my photo taken for their new website. I rode 7+ hours to Nashville to do the one thing I liked doing less than just about everything else in life. Over the course of the four days I was there, I got to meet and make friends with lots of great people and have my photo taken by a fantastically talented professional photographer who managed to accentuate my positives while cropping out most everything that made me uncomfortable about myself. It was not only a fun trip and a much need vacation from my everyday life, it was one of the most therapeutic activities I can remember and had a profound effect on my self-image.


Despite my fears, being in a chair has helped me recover many parts of my life from the FSH, instead of taking what was left. I’ll be 40 next month and even though the FSH is still progressing in ways predictable and otherwise, I’m thankful for every day I get to spend on the sunny side of the dirt. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I can’t wait to find out. I just hope it has a ramp.








Client Centred or Funding Dictated? 



Over the past couple months, we have been discussing power wheelchairs. We covered everything from drive wheel configuration to power seat functions and even the integrated technology like Bluetooth. I hope that you were able to learn one or two new facts throughout this time. What happens now? As we move onto the next topic series, I first wanted one more blog to really discuss why this all matters. It is easy to read a blog and then just continue on with our busy days. Do we take the time to read and really think about how our clients can be impacted by the equipment they receive?

This can be a hard discussion to have or to even think about. For many and most countries around the world, we talk about the idea of client-centred care. This means that we are completing our treatments, planning our goals, and prescribing equipment around the client. This is what most of us discussed and learned in our university. However, often we find that we are limited in this client centred approach. What is this limitation? FUNDING! Every country that I have lived in, worked in, or visited have all had the same barrier – Funding. We can allow funding to take over this client-centred approach and it then turns into the funding guiding our decisions on what is best for our client. Why does this matter? Our founder of Permobil perfectly answered this question so many years ago:

Every person has the right to have his or her disability compensated as far as possible by aids with the same technical standard as those we all use in our everyday lives.



So, does funding have it all wrong? No, this is not a blog to be negative to any funding. We have to remember that funding is guided by a LOT of different pieces. Some of these pieces we cannot change. However, when appropriate we can discuss and demonstrate how important it is to build and design the equipment to the client versus fitting the client into funding. This also means that we can demonstrate to our funding bodies/systems how client centred prescribing can lead to improved outcomes, increased function, increased independence, and an improved quality of life.

Many funding systems will allow the therapist to write an assessment or justification to explain why a piece of equipment is necessary if it is outside of the normal funding amount, code, or list. This can be overwhelming to many therapists to write this justification and for many good reasons. Sometimes we can be aware of the improvements in a client’s function, independence, medical benefits, but we are unable to understand how the equipment is making this change. Power wheelchairs, seating products, manual wheelchairs, they are all complex. A high-quality product is designed utilising the highest amount of research, an understanding of materials, and engineering principles. You might understand that one power wheelchair is easier for the client to maintain their position over uneven terrain versus another, but are you able to discuss how this can be related to the suspension, seating components, and their drive wheel configuration? This is where the challenge can come. How as therapists are we supposed to understand both our clients and the equipment to this high degree? As you continue to prescribe equipment this will become easier and you will continue to learn, but in the beginning remember that you have resources to help!

Reach out to your mentors, educators, manufacturers, etc… to help provide you with this information that you need. Ask the questions! There is so much information and research out there to help explain why your client might benefit from a certain function or design of their equipment.

The final thought I want to end on is to keep pushing. We have to remember how far we have come and that we have to continue to keep pushing for our clients. If we do not attempt to ask for funding on equipment that we believe is justified in improving our client’s lives, then we will never see a change in the funding. The funding system needs to hear that what they are funding is not always enough when that is the case. They may not be aware of new features and new technology and how this impacts your client. Unless you write a justification or assessment to tell the funding system that your client requires something different, we cannot blame them for not funding it. Remember to appeal too! Perhaps your first attempt did not fully explain why this equipment is necessary. If you get a denial, think about if this equipment is necessary to your client. If the answer is yes, go back to your resources, gather more information, and try to explain this again. If we do not appeal a denial, then we are essentially agreeing that this equipment is not necessary for our clients. I know this can be overwhelming at times, but remember we are here to help!

New Zealand Therapists!

I will be travelling across New Zealand at the end of November to come and talk about power wheelchairs and how the design and technology can impact our clients’ lives. Reach out to your local territory sales manager if you are interested in attending the event near you! You can always reach out to me directly at



Why Switch from Switch Control?



Mouse Emulation on an iPad?  Moving a cursor on a screen on an iPhone?  Did I just read that correctly?  Yes, you did!

When Apple release iOS 13 in September, in addition to new Memojis, an amazing new accessibility function was also released, which gives consumers who prefer Apple products more choice as to how they interact with their device (consult Apple to find out if your device is compatible with iOS 13)

Prior to this release, options for a person using either direct access or indirect access through Permobil iDevice, they were required to use Switch Control to navigate their icons, menus, and advanced scroll functions.

The best thing about this update, is that those who prefer Switch Control can still use this access method while trying out the new mouse emulation to see which is the most effective or efficient for them. The decision could depend on a few factors: drive input, wheelchair or external switch access methods, range of motion, strength, activity tolerance, what types of activities they will be completing with their phone or tablet, and of course, their individual preference.  

Now, there is a choice!  Consumers can now choose if they would like to use mouse emulation instead when using an adaptive Bluetooth mouse, such as the one that come standard on a Permobil PJSM or CJSM joystick, or OMNI2 display. 


To use and explore this great Apple Accessibility function with your Permobil Bluetooth mouse here are a few instructions.

Contact Rachel Fabiniak, your Permobil Clinical Educator, at for any Permobil questions.


 Download iOS 13 to your iPad/iPhone and make sure Bluetooth is turned on

  1.  Settings->Accessibility->Physical and Motor
  2.  Touch->AssistiveTouch->ON
  3.  Pointer Devices-> Devices->Bluetooth Devices 
  4. Tap Bluetooth Mouse 1

              a. You can change the cursor speed, size, and color

              b. You can also use dwell click

              c. Show onscreen keyboard

              d. Always show menu

              e. Can customise assistive touch menu








1      On your joystick, go to settings (push and hold top left button) and Turn Bluetooth

        Mouse 1 "ON”

2      Exit settings

3      Toggle to Bluetooth Mode

4      Place joystick into pairing mode (>>>>>)

5      Bluetooth Mouse 1 will appear on your phone’s BT menu.


Learn more here:


Call for accessibility support

 To contact Apple Accessibility Support over the phone in English, use these numbers:

  •          Australia: (61) 1-300-365-083
  •          United States: 1-877-204-3930
  •          United Kingdom: 0800 107 6285





Jennith Bernstein


Permobil US Clinical Educator Manager



Jennith Bernstein, PT, DPT, ATP/SMS: Jennith is a Physical Therapist based in Atlanta, Georgia.  She spent 10 years at The Shepherd Center, focusing her time in the Seating & Wheeled Mobility clinic for 7 years. Jennith completed her Masters in Physical Therapy at North Georgia College & State University and return to complete her transitional DPT at University of Texas Medical Branch in 2014.   Jennith has served as a volunteer teacher at the Universidad Mariano Galvez in Guatemala, instructing spinal cord injury curriculum as well as seating and mobility.  Jennith has presented at national and international conferences such as RESNA, ISS, LASS, Expo Ortopedica, and the APTA NEXT conference. Jennith joined Permobil as the Clinical Education Manager for the Central Region in 2016.







Mecenzi’s Story

“I go places and people look down at me, I would rather look them in the face.” – Mecenzi

If we have the ability to fully access and participate in our environment, we may forget that this human right is not possible for everyone.  Think about your daily life.  Can you reach the counter in your kitchen to make a sandwich, or reach inside the refrigerator to grab a drink?  What about reaching up in your closet to get your clothes?  That is just in your home.  Now think about experiences in your community.  Can you look face to face with your friends and family? Can you give your loved ones a hug without an awkward bend over shoulder in your face outcome? How about accessing counters at a restaurant to pay your bill?  For many individuals with a mobility impairment their environmental access is greatly limited.  It’s not just environmental access though.  How would you feel if you had to sit down in a chair at a party while everyone around you was standing and talking? For some individuals with a mobility impairment, they find it difficult to fully interact with their peers when they are unable to look them in the face.  For individuals with mobility impairments it might not just be accessibility and peer interaction but returning to or choosing a career path that typically requires standing throughout the day.  While accommodations can typically be made, what if instead of adapting the environment we adapted the individual’s mobility device?

Today I want to share with you Mecenzi’s story of herself and her new F5 corpus VS.

Mecenzi’s story, as you will see in the video below, illustrates how with the assistance of the F5 Corpus VS, Mecenzi has greatly improved not only her independence, but how being able to stand up makes her feel. 



The F5 Corpus VS may not be for everyone, but it is time for everyone to have access to products that will allow for the greatest independence possible.  In this case, the F5 Corpus VS has given Mecenzi the mobility that she requires to meet her goals and allow her the freedom and ability to access her environment. 

Apart from the social benefits Mecenzi and her family love, standing wheelchairs can also deliver potential health benefits. We will explore some of these in future blogs.

Please check out the link below for more information on the F5 Corpus VS:

“Every person has the right to have his or her disability compensated as far as possible by aids with the same technical standard as those we all use in our everyday lives.” Dr. Per Uddén, Permobil Founder




Independent Repositioning Mode: Getting the Most Out of Your Power Seat Functions



We have been discussing the importance of power seat functions for the past couple blogs and what those power seat functions can do for the user. Often because of the limited mobility of the individual utilising the power wheelchair, power seat functions are used for pressure management. Pressure management or shifting weight off the user’s bottom is crucial to help to decrease the risk of skin breakdown. There are numerous research studies that discuss which combination of power seat functions are best for pressure management. The research shows that superior pressure relief may be achieved by utilising both posterior tilt and recline. Based on research by David Kreutz in 1997, the individual is recommended to initially move to a fully tilted position to stabilise the pelvis, and then follow with activation of the recline system so as to minimise loss of postural stability. Then reverse this order for coming back up to a driving or functional position: Recline and then tilt. This order is important because if the user starts for example with power recline they may lose their stable seated position or increase shearing to their sacrum. Commonly, users will have access to power posterior tilt, power recline, and power elevating legrests. In this case, the user should complete the following sequence for pressure management: posterior tilt, elevating legrests, recline. Then, reversing this order for coming back out to an upright driving position. When the user is fully tilted and reclined, this position is also helpful to reposition the user. Many users may be able to unweight their pelvis and shift their own hips in this unweighted position.

So, what is the challenge with utilising the sequence of posterior tilt, elevating legrests, and recline to maintain postural stability during pressure management? This sequence can be difficult for the user to remember, or maybe the user does not know the difference between recline and posterior tilt if they were not educated by their therapist or other seating specialist. This can create a fear for therapists and many will prescribe just posterior tilt in order to prevent the potentially negative effects of the 3 power seat functions when not used in the right sequence. Or, maybe the user is given all 3 power seat functions, but instructed to only use tilt for their pressure management. This is where it is important for manufacturers to see this limitation and develop a solution.

This solution for Permobil is called Independent Repositioning Mode or IRM. IRM comes standard on every F series, M3 and M5 power wheelchair.  This mode can be turned on to where the user can press a button on the controller, hit a switch, or use the actual joystick to enter the independent repositioning mode. Because the chair has smart actuators, when the switch for example is hit, the chair will take the client into a pre-set or therapist set amount of tilt, legrest elevation, and recline in the proper sequence one after the other. The user only has to know in this case to hit one button.  Users no longer have to worry about going all the way into posterior tilt before elevating their legs and then reclining. This feature is designed to take the stress and difficulty away from the user, but also empower the user to be able to be independent with their own pressure management.  Independent repositioning mode can also help with exactly what it says – repositioning. For some users, they are able to hit a button and go into this position so that they can independently repositioning their seated posture.  While the user can be set up for the standard IRM position, the therapist can also choose the final position of IRM so that this feature can be utilised for every users’ needs.    





Kreutz, D. 1997. Power tilt, recline or both. Team Rehab Report, March: 29–32.




Power Seat Functions: Elevation


Today we will look at the power seat function for elevation.  When we talk about elevation, we are referring to the raising up of the seat pan. You may also hear elevation referred to as seat elevate, or lift. Elevation can be beneficial to the user for functional, psycho-social, and physical benefits.

Let’s start with the functional benefits. The first benefit is the improvement of or independence with transfers.  Many people need to complete lateral transfers, where they slide across from their wheelchair to another surface such as the bed, toilet, or car. The difficulty with lateral transfers occurs when the user has to go from a lower surface to a higher surface. With seat elevate, most transfers out of the wheelchair can now be level or with a slight decline. The seat elevate can also be helpful with sit to stand transfers. Another great function benefit of elevation is the improvement of the user’s vertical reach.  Often with sitting in a wheelchair, activities or tasks will become overhead.  This means that the user has to be able to reach overhead to complete this task or activity. Seat elevation may allow the user to increase their independence by completing overhead activities, and this can also lead to additional physical benefits. Overhead reaching could increase the user’s risk of shoulder impingement or perhaps the user does not have the strength in their arms or trunk to complete this task or activity, and with seat elevate this will no longer be a problem.  It’s not just about the shoulder.  There is also a large impact on the neck, or cervical spine, with constantly performing overhead activities or looking up throughout the users’ day. Seat elevation can reduce the potential problems of overhead reaching.

Finally, let’s touch on the psycho-social benefits. In a previous blog, I discussed this topic of being able to come to eye level with your peers. This seat elevation allows the user to come to eye level with their peers, promoting the user to be part of the conversation. Seat elevation gives the user the power to choose at what height they want to be.

There are of course are a few limitations even when the user is able to elevate.  Many times, I hear people talk about how with seat elevate they will be able to reach into all of the cabinets in their kitchen.  Now, this could be true, but for many users they can now get up to open the cabinet, and reach the first few items, but they will have difficulty reach all the way into the cabinet.  This is because the user is typically seated back and would have to lean forward in order to reach further into the cabinet. This is one example, but we can see that seat elevate while very beneficial for independence with some functional activities may not provide the solution for all tasks or activities. Last week we briefly discussed ActiveReach™ and its benefits with vertical reach. For those clients that are looking to get that further reach, have better access to their sink and kitchen, and to even further enhance their participation through active posture, ActiveReach™ that includes both elevation and anterior tilt might be the right choice.

Remember, not everyone will need seat elevate, but it is important to assess each individual and determine if the function is appropriate. 




Power Wheelchair Suspension: What you need to know and look for?



Over the past 2 weeks we have talked about drive wheel configuration and some tips on how to decide which option is right for you. This week we are going to discuss power wheelchair suspension.  The suspension can vary from chair to chair even within each manufacturer, but there are some key points that we should discuss. 

Most power wheelchairs on the market are going to use compression springs for their suspension. There are two types of compression spring that are typically used: Linear and Non-linear.

Non-linear springs as seen in the photo below allow for changes in compressive load at different points of the range.  What this means is that you can have the looser spring coils at the beginning phase to help with climbing over obstacles.  The trade-off will be that you will lose some of the overall stability of the chair when not climbing.  Many manufacturers will use one non-linear spring as their suspension.

Linear springs on the other hand allow for consistent stability throughout the compression range.  For Permobil, these springs are also adjustable. The factory will set the suspension spring resistance based on the weight of the user and then the supplier or manufacturer representative will have the ability to further adjust depending on the needs of the user. With the Permobil M and F series, the suspension will be composed of multiple linear springs to achieve optimal traction and suspension.


Why does this matter?  The shape and the coil distance have an impact on how a spring works and effects the user.  The better the suspension, the greater the decreased forces on the end-user. This could lead to increased seating tolerance, pain management, spasticity management, and decreases the risk for loss of balance or position in the wheelchair.  One of the biggest points that I think about is driving over any uneven terrain whether it is just a sidewalk or grass at a park. It is important that as the chair goes over each bump that this bump is not felt by the user or limited as much as possible.  If each bump is transmitted up to the user, then the user will likely not maintain their seated position.  They will also feel all this vibration.  According to one study by Wolf and colleagues in 2007, this vibration can lead to many impairments including fatigue and pain.  



The final thought that I believe is one of the most crucial points to make is that the suspension on the wheelchair should always be there for you or your client.  We know how important suspension is and the negative impact that not having this suspension could be to our clients.  Therefore, we need to make sure that the wheelchair will maintain its suspension in any position and over all surfaces.  No matter what position the user takes the Permobil power wheelchair to, such as elevate, posterior tilt, active reach, or standing, the suspension remains the same.  If you want to drive your wheelchair in elevate, active reach, standing, or other positions, you want to be sure that your suspension will continue to support you in those positions and not lock out. 

It is important to know that each manufacturer will have different suspension set up on their chairs.  As a client, therapist, or carer make sure you ask about the suspension to determine which option is best for you.