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Powered Positioning

Powered positioning functions available on powered wheelchairs include lift, tilt, recline, elevating leg rests, and stand. They significantly enhance the experience of using a wheelchair, offering a range of health, comfort, practical and social benefits. Options include tilt, lift, recline, elevating leg rests, and stand - we explain each of these below.

Powered seating options

Powered Lift

Powered lifters or seat risers allow you to raise the seat level. The primary benefits of this are practical and social ones. By being raised up, you can engage in eye-to-eye conversation, without having to worry about being overlooked or others needing to crouch down. Practical benefits include extending your reach, for example to kitchen cupboards.

This is a feature most often found on prescriptive powerchairs such as Sunrise Medical's Quickie Q-Series, though a few more basic models such as the Jazzy Air 2 have seat lifters. Seat lifters will have different maximum elevations; while many of those on top-end powerchairs can rise up to 12 inches, more basic ones may elevate by less.

While most seat risers will limit the drive speed of a powerchair to a crawl, there are an increasing number of models available that let you drive at around 3 - 4 mph (walking speed) when fully elevated.

Powered Tilt

Tilt in space provides vital pressure relief for those with limited ability to adjust their position, or who are at high risk of tissue breakdown. Higher degrees of tilt provide more relief, with occupational Therapists recommending 50° for those most at need - although most conventional tilt mechanisms go back to 30°. Tilt can also play a key role in ensuring correct posture for those with kyphosis or other conditions, particularly when hoisting.

It is found as an option on all high-end configurable powerchairs, with these models featuring the highest degree of tilt. Powered tilt is available on some more basic chairs, such as Pride's Fusion, for those who don't need the postural support found on more advanced chairs, but who require some degree of tilt.

Tilting your wheelchair beyond a small amount will generally restrict the speed of the powerchair, to ensure the safety and stability of the user.

Powered Recline

This reclines the backrest only, allowing you to adopt a position closer to lying down. As well as offering some postural benefits, many people find recline key to comfortable use of a wheelchair. It allows you to shift your position into a more relaxed lying down one, which can also allow you to sleep in the wheelchair if desired.

If you are at high risk of tissue breakdown, then you will need shear reduction recline, which keeps the backrest in the same position relative to your back while you recline - this provides constant support, and avoids friction. This is found on higher end prescriptive powerchairs.

Powered Elevating Leg Rests

Powered elevating leg rests come in two forms - either a centre-mount footplate, or separate elevating hangers. The centre-mount gives the wheelchair a smaller footprint, ideal for manoeuvring, and is better for those with some ability to move their feet. Separate hangers are better for those who need more assistance in maintaining the correct leg position and can also swing out of the way for transfers.

Elevating leg rests help if you wish to lie down on the wheelchair, so pair well with powered recline. They also offer health benefits for those who suffer from fluid build-up and swelling in their legs.

Standing Function

Only dedicated standing powerchairs have this feature on them - it is not something you can add to conventional powerchairs. For more information on standing powerchairs, please see our dedicated page on them.

Anterior Tilt

Forward tilt isn't available on many powered wheelchairs, but has some significant practical advantages. It is primarily found on Permobil powerchairs, and combines with a seat riser to form "Active Reach" - extending your reach and ability to interact with the environment around you. It can be seen in the pictures on the blue powerchair. Anterior tilt also helps with forward standing transfers.

Which Seating Functions Are Best For You?

Many people will opt for a combination of the powered positioning options profiled above, which will allow them improved support, as well as giving them greater flexibility in adjusting their position according to their needs throughout the day.

If you are not sure what powered seating functions you would benefit, our recommendation is to try them! Our Chessington showroom is fully stocked with our full range of prescriptive powerchairs, allowing you to try out all the positioning functions.

Alternatively we are also able to arrange home consultations, bringing out a selection of powered wheelchairs for you to try in your home environment.

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