The Necessity of Seat Elevation for Power Wheelchairs

RESNA Position on the Application of Seat Elevation Devices for Power Wheelchair Users

Authors: Schiappa, MS ATP; Piriano, PT ATP/SMS; Bernhardt, PT MPT ATP; Shea, MA OTR ATP; Maurer, PT MPT ATP; Rosen, PT MPT MSMS ATP/SMS; Lange, OTR/L ABDA ATP/SMS; Schmeler, PhD OTR/L ATP; Dicanno, MD

Publisher: Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America

What is a seat elevation device for a wheelchair? 

“A power seat elevation device is a seat function component of a wheelchair that raises and lowers users while remaining in a seated position through the use of an electromechanical lift system to provide varying amounts of vertical seat to floor height. It does not change the seated angles or the seat’s angle relative to the ground. A seat elevation device may elevate vertically from a standard seat height or may lower the user closer to the floor.”

Why is seat elevation so important to its user?

“Wheelchair mobility is often only considered from the perspective of people moving from one point to another on a two-dimensional plane. Vertical movement is necessary for people to function and participate in a three- dimensional world. A common intervention that provides vertical mobility within a wheelchair is a seat elevation device.”

Full text:

Summary: “Power seat elevation devices allow an individual who uses a power wheelchair to independently change their seat to floor height. Increasing seat height can increase functional reach (vertical and horizontal reaching ability) as well as decrease the amount of overhead reaching that is required. Overhead reach can lead to injury and pain of the shoulder, neck and upper extremities. Changing the seat height in relation to other surfaces can increase transfer safety and efficiency as well as reduce injuries and fall risk. Seat elevation devices can also improve line of sight with others and with the environment. Without a more direct line of sight, individuals in wheelchair tend to assume cervical extension which can lead to fatigue, pain and even elicitation of a symmetrical tonic neck reflex (STNR). Power seat elevation devices are an important power wheelchair seat function which can improve overall function; safety; efficiency; and reduce fatigue; injury; and pain to minimize the risk for adverse medical outcomes and resulting healthcare costs.”

“RESNA Position on the Application of Seat Elevation Devices for Power Wheelchair Users” Approved by RESNA Board of Directors in 2019.

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