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State Spinal Cord Injury Service

Spinal Seating Modules

Evaluation process: seating and mobility systems

The process of evaluating a seating and mobility system includes:

  • Observation
  • Description, and
  • Measurement

Observation

  1. Make initial observations of the current system when the client is in the wheelchair.
  2. Take note of the client’s posture and make note of cause and effect - for example, is the upholstery sagging more on the left side in association with the client's scoliosis?
  3. Take photos of the wheelchair and seating components.

A more thorough investigation can be carried out when the client is out of the system, for example, the state of the cushion inside the cover, the relative size of the seat base to the cushion.

Description

  1. Describe the seating and wheeled mobility system by referring to:
    • Manufacturer, model and product code
    • Size
    • Age
    • Condition
    • Features, options or specifications of the current system.
  2. Comment on relevant issues relating to the system:
    • Materials used
    • Weight
    • Adjustability
    • Strength
    • Durability
    • Maintenance and cleaning
    • Wheel type, or
    • Control system (for power or power-assisted wheelchairs)

The following sections contain details on the evaluation of components in seating systems, manual wheelchairs and power mobility.

Measurement

The existing seating and wheeled mobility system should be measured and compared against the person's body measurements and needs in order to evaluate the suitability, size, and placement of postural supports.

For the following section it is helpful to have a copy of the downloadable forms for recording the specifications of manual wheelchair and power mobility seating.

  1. Measure dimensions or record size as per the labels on cushions and back supports
  2. Measure the mounting position of back supports and postural supports in relation to the wheelchair frame
  3. Measure the seat-to-back support angle and compare against the person’s thigh-to-trunk angle in the MAT record. The seat-to-back support angle can be measured as illustrated in the figure below.

Instructional image: Measuring a seat tilt angle and back support angle with magnetic angle protractor

References

  1. Waugh, K.  A clinical application guide to standardized wheelchair seating measures of the body and seating support surfaces. University of Colorado/Assistive Technology Partners. Denver, Colorado. Revised edition August 2013 https://www.ncart.us/uploads/userfiles/files/GuidetoSeatingMeasuresRevisedEdition.November2013.pdf