Blog posts of '2021' 'May'

Can attendance at an Expo count towards ongoing professional development?  

The past 14 months have brought many challenges to the way we learn, interact and access seating and wheelchairs. Online platforms and virtual education have been embraced and provided opportunities for all therapists including those who often miss out due to remote locations and high caseloads. However, there is nothing like being able to interact and try equipment to fully understand the capacity of the technology!  

As we move towards the “new norm” we are excited to be involved in the return of the Assistive Technology Association Expos and Clinical Education program on both sides of the Tasman. Both these events follow a similar format with a large exhibition featuring the latest and greatest AT solutions all under one roof alongside clinical workshops and presentations.

It is important for therapists attending to remember if you are claiming the hours towards ongoing competency requirements that just attending a workshop or presentation isn’t necessarily meeting the requirements. Clinicians need to relate the content back to both their scope of practice and personal learning goals. One of the benefits of having an expo alongside a program is the ability to consolidate and apply some of the clinical concepts to the equipment on display. Whilst there are some fundamental similarities between products there are also differences that we need to consider when identifying potential solutions that will meet the individual functional needs of an end user. It is a great opportunity to compare different potential solutions and stay up to date with the latest features and technological advancements. Along with our Product Specialists our Clinical Education Specialists will be on stand at both the Australian and New Zealand events and welcome you to stop by with any questions if you are attending.

These events are valuable not just to prescribing clinicians, end users and those that support individuals with an impairment can also find value from both the clinical program and talking to suppliers, manufacturers, and service providers. comparing.

Melbourne will be the first to kick off. The Australian ATSA have events in 3 states this year, Victoria, Western Australia, and ACT. The clinical education program is available for Melbourne and Perth events and Rachael Fabiniak and myself are both presenting and will be on the expo stand to assist with any queries throughout the events. You can register online for these free events. See ATSA website for the complete programme.

Melbourne - Tuesday 17 May 2021

Melbourne - Wednesday 18 May 2021

Perth Wednesday 26 May 2021


New Zealand is not missing out with a similar opportunity in July! This will be held Tuesday 6 – Wednesday 7 July 2021 at the Sir Woolf Fisher Arena, Vodafone Events Centre, Manukau, Auckland New Zealand. Rachael Maher will be on stand throughout the event and Rachael Fabiniak and myself will be streaming live from Australia. Their full program is available here. 

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Wednesday 7 July 2021

If you are unable to attend either of these free events but are interested in any of these workshops or other clinical education opportunities, please reach out to us at or your local Permobil Educator.

This year also sees the return of the Oceania Seating Symposium. This is a hybrid event to enable presentations from seating experts from around the globe to still present their latest research, findings and all things seating related and a great opportunity for those clinicians that want to further develop their knowledge around seating and mobility. This Symposium is hosted by Seating to Go under the umbrella of the International Seating Symposium and Pittsburgh university further information can be found here (Link)

With all these events and opportunities,Can attendance at an Expo count towards ongoing professional development? Yes, if it matches your development goals, just remember to keep it purposeful if you are planning on claiming these hours. If you are at any of these events stop by our stand and say hello, we would love to see you!


Tracee-Lee Maginnity
Clinical Education Specialist 

Tracee-Lee Maginnity joined Permobil Australia 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.

 Are we proactive with power assist?

Power assist is a hot topic on my calendar for May this year, and has seen me reviewing educational material relating to power assist in recent weeks.  In my presentation I have one slide that I am wrestling with, and this relates to our current approach to power assist – and whether we are proactive or reactive?                                                                                                                                                                                             

A big part of me wants to say that we are well on the way to being proactive in our approach, but another part of me questions whether we truly are?  Power assist is no longer new technology, it has been available for some time now and there are numerous options on the market. There is research to support that power assist helps a wheelchair user travel further with less effort, and not to mention consistent statistics about the rates of shoulder pain and/or injuries in people who rely on manual wheelchair for their mobility. As therapists we know this information, but do we apply it to our daily clinical practice?

When we assess a person for a potential wheeled mobility solution, we are good at establishing how a person functions, what environments they need to access and what goals they have relating to wheeled mobility, and for those who have clear goals relating to power assist, or an obvious need for power assist, we are good at recommending it.

But what about those whose need for power assist is less obvious? For some users who are having challenges using a manual wheelchair we often consider a power wheelchair in the first instance – for example children, or older people, or those who live in residential care, perhaps with the perception that power assist is complex, or not cost effective, or not practical for indoor environments. Despite these perceptions, the challenges of power wheelchairs remain the same – power wheelchairs are heavy – making them more challenging to transport, their footprints can be larger – making them more challenging to use in smaller spaces, and finding a chair that meets functional needs (such as a lower seat to floor height) can make them a high-cost item.

There are many instances where a power wheelchair is the more appropriate solution, but with advances in power assist technology it may be that power assist can be an option for more manual wheelchair users. More power assist options now have programming options – the option to programme the device to move nice and slowly for the older person punting in a residential care facility, or to have strength differences programmed into wheels for the person who has asymmetrical arm strength (or who may struggle with camber on the footpaths). The practicalities of power assist have also improved – many options are now easy to attach or detach, for the child who only needs assistance to get down the back of the school field to join his friends to play. The range and reliability on some options is approaching that of a power wheelchair, allowing a person to use power assist to access the community from their own home, reducing their reliance on public transport or taxis.


One article I discovered while researching power assist was by Giesbrecht et al (2009) who compared a power wheelchair with a pushrim activated power assisted wheelchair with eight wheelchair users who used both manual and power wheelchairs. The study was small, and for those who used their power wheelchairs for the majority of their day, the overall trend was they preferred their power wheelchairs, but there were features of the power assist devices they liked – particularly aspects such as weight and manoeuvrability. The part of the study I found surprising was that many users were able to complete the majority of their desired activities in both their power wheelchair and the power assisted manual wheelchair, this makes me wonder what this same study would look like today with the range of options we now have available.

One debate that does come up around power assist is whether it is cost effective. Is it a cost-effective means of a person being able to achieve their goal? Is it a cost-effective solution in general? How do I justify a power assist solution to the funder? Unfortunately, not all power assist options will meet government funding criteria, some may need to consider whether they have the means to self-fund a solution, while others may need to explore other funding options. Establishing whether a solution is cost effective is multifactorial, where we need to weigh up how a power assist option compares to other potential solutions. For example, provision of a power assist option may eliminate the need for a modified vehicle or housing modifications when compared to a power wheelchair, or it may allow a person to access the supermarket independently, meaning they do not need a paid carer to help them. A more challenging aspect to quantify is whether provision of the right device will mean that it is actually used – and not left sitting abandoned in a person’s garage, an unfortunate consequence when we don’t get the match between the person and solution right.

So how do we be more proactive in our use of power assist? Maybe we need to be considering power assist for all manual wheelchair users? Maybe we need to be considering power assist before we consider a power wheelchair, regardless of a person’s age or living situation? Perhaps we need to be truly listening to our person’s goals and aspirations and working through what is required to achieve these, not just focusing on what a particular funding body will support?  Food for thought….


Want to learn more about power assist?  Please reach out to our education or sales team to find out more – (insert details)


Giesbrecht, E.M., Ripat, J.D., Quanbury, A.O. & Cooper J.E. (2000) Participation in community-based activities of daily living: Comparison of a pushrim-activiated, power-assisted wheelchair and a power wheelchair.  Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. 4(3): 198-207

Rachel Maher
Clinical Education Specialist

Rachel Maher graduated from the University of Otago in 2003 with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Physiotherapy (Neurorehabilitation) in 2010.

Rachel gained experience in inpatient rehabilitation and community Physiotherapy, before moving into a Child Development Service.

Rachel moved into a Wheelchair and Seating Outreach Advisor role at Enable New Zealand in 2014, complementing her clinical knowledge with experience in NZ Ministry of Health funding processes.

Rachel joined Permobil in June 2020, and is passionate about education and working collaboratively to achieve the best result for our end users.