When it comes to selecting wheelchairs, most of us look at performance, like frame material on an ultralight manual or speed on a power chair. However, among the most overlooked aspects is seating and positioning, which dictates user comfort. With the average user spending 16 hours per day in a wheelchair, it’s arguably among the most vital factors affecting one’s health. Seating and positioning components are continually evolving. The good news is the latest round is geared toward optimizing comfort, health and performance.
The innovative construction of ROHO’s new PostureLITE cushion assures a product that is comfortable, protective and durable — and it’s ultralight. At only 1.5 pounds, the PostureLITE is among the lightest pressure management cushions ever made. Yet what makes it even more unique is its “fail-safe” no-maintenance construction as a sealed air and foam hybrid cushion. The PostureLITE features an air bladder around the sides and front, supporting a center foam section. The result is a suspended seating surface that conforms and shifts with postural changes, but won’t bottom-out should a leak occur in the surrounding air bladder, which allows some inward side compression, so the cushion can adapt to slight seat width variations. The PostureLITE comes in three sizes that fit seat widths 15 to 20 inches, has a fluid-resistant cover, and features a 12-month warranty. For maximum pressure management, ROHO still recommends its full air floatation cushions, but the PostureLITE is a great seating surface for active wheelers who want the lightest of light cushions.
Amovida Motion Comfort+
Also new in the cushion arena is the Amovida Motion Comfort+, a gel-type cushion designed for active users. What separates the Motion Comfort+ from many other gel-type cushions is the fluid bladder covers the entire seating area, as opposed to only the rear portion of the cushion. This allows for equalized support and pressure management over the entire cushion. A foam base encapsulates the fluid bladder and provides both postural support and impact absorption. Rounding out the Motion+ technology is a 3-D mesh cover that allows optimal airflow and temperature regulation, decreasing perspiration and moisture buildup. The Amovida Motion Comfort+ comes in four sizes to fit seat widths 14 to 18 inches and features adjustment inserts for contouring needs.
Another option in exceptional pressure management is Aquila’s Airpulse PK cushion, which automatically alters seat cushion air pressure. With 15 strategically-placed air cells, a programmable controller alternates inflation and deflation among cells in as little as one minute intervals. The result is that pressure points experience ongoing relief, and blood circulation is increased. The Airpulse PK’s controller will run for 40 hours at its most rapid setting, or 70 hours on less frequent cycling via its battery pack. Additionally, the 24-volt system can be powered by a power chair’s battery. For added safety, the air cells feature a foam filler to prevent bottoming-out in the event of a failure. Each cushion is custom made to order and is offered in virtually any size, including bariatric.
Aquila Airpulse PK
On the backrest side for ultralight manual wheelchairs, Invacare’s new Matrix MX1 backrest combines technology, performance and function to create an ultra-high-end seating solution. The Matrix MX1 features a carbon fiber shell covered in foam and a breathable fabric, with a 3-inch-deep contour for trunk control and stability. There are three mounting options, including a cool “mono-mount” that attaches to the rigidizing bar on a manual chair, a dual cane mount, or a quick-release dual cane mount. Rounding out the Matrix MX1 offerings are widths from 14 to 18 inches and three height choices — 9, 12, and 16 inches.
When it comes to power chair seating, Permobil’s Corpus 3G (third generation) continues to get buzz with its heavily-based ergonomic design and versatility. The Corpus 3G starts with an outer track frame that accepts a range of accessories and adjustment. Then, the seat pan is width and depth adjustable, as is the backrest, which can also accept after-market backrests. From there, either an after-market pressure-management cushion or Corpus 3G seating surfaces can be used. For Corpus 3G seating surfaces, a breathable mesh or leatherette cover is available. Of course, the Corpus 3G — a descendant of among the first power seating options — is available with power tilt, recline, seat lift, and elevating foot platform. Notable accessory adjustment ranges like the headrest, armrests and footplates all conform to the most unique posture. Corpus 3G seating has a 300-pound weight capacity, and is also available in junior sizes.
Permobil Corpus 3G
Also in the power positioning genre is the new TRU-Balance AFP (articulating foot platform), by Quantum Rehab. Traditionally, power elevating leg rests have been big and bulky. However, the TRU-Balance AFP is part of a trend toward more-ergonomic, less-obtrusive power elevating “foot platforms” that enhance functionality, clinical benefits, and aesthetics. What makes the TRU-Balance AFP unique is that it’s modular. Although it features two individual, adjustable footplates, a connector bracket makes it a single unit. The base footplate measures 10 inches wide by 11 inches deep, but extensions can be added to make it up to 14 inches wide and 13 inches deep. Standard calf pads are available, but so are a vast range of lower leg positioning options. The TRU-Balance AFP is available in leg lengths from 13 to 19 inches, with a weight capacity of 450 pounds, and is compatible with all Quantum TRU-Balance seating.
With more seating and positioning products on the market than ever before, it’s not just about innovation, but also about finding the right fit for the right application. Before purchasing any seating or positioning product, it’s important to seek clinical advice. And remember, there’s no such thing as an ideal seating component. Rather, the only ideal is the one that’s best for you.