Powered positioning functions available on powered wheelchairs include lift, tilt, recline, elevating leg rests, and standing functions. They offer a range of health, comfort, practical and social benefits to a wheelchair user, and we profile those here.
Powered lifters or seat risers allow you to raise the seat level. This is a feature most often found on prescriptive powerchairs such as Sunrise Medical's Quickie Q-Series, though a few other models such as the Jazzy Select 6 Ultra and Jazzy Air 2 have seat lifters. Seat risers don't offer any health benefits, and their primary benefits 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. Seat lifters will have different maximum elevations; while many of those on top-end powerchairs can rise up to 10 inches, more basic ones may elevate by less.
While most seat risers will limit the drive speed of a powerchair to a crawl, Quantum's Q6 Edge 3 features the unique iLevel drive that allows you to drive a brisk walking pace of 4.5 mph while elevated up to 12 inches - the similar C-ME feature on the Q700 Sedeo Ergo also allows you to drive at 3 mph when fully elevated. The Jazzy Air 2 is unique in having this feature on a non-prescriptive powerchair, allowing you to drive at 4 mph when elevated on a much more affordable model.
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. Tilt can also play a key role in ensuring correct posture for those with kyphosis or other conditions.
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 the Pride Fusion, for those who don't need the postural support found on more advanced chairs, but who require some degree of tilt to relieve pressure.
Tilting your wheelchair beyond a small amount will generally restrict the speed of the powerchair, to ensure the safety and stability of the user.
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 only usually found on the most adavnced powerchairs, such as the Q-series range, or Invacare's TDX2 Ultra, which boasts 170° of shear-reduction recline.
Powered Elevating Leg Rests
Powered elevating leg rests are a less common option chosen for powered wheelchairs, but still useful for many. They 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.
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.
The benefits of standing are profiled on our dedicated standing wheelchairs page.
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. To discuss your seating needs further, and to arrange a specialist consultation, please contact our mobility specialists.