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Permobil Blog / November 10, 2022

A consumer's perspective on client-centered wheelchair evaluation

A consumer's perspective on client-centered wheelchair evaluation

Last week we took a look at why it's so important to provide person-centered wheelchair evaluations which increase optimal mobility outcomes and diminish equipment abandonment. We also discussed resources to help define the idea of a person-centered wheelchair evaluation and how to best match the wheelchair to the individual. In today's blog Paul, a manual wheelchair user, explains in his own words, what client-centered means to him for optimal wheeled mobility CRT solutions.


I like to say I have been in the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) business a long time. By that I mean I sustained my T-12 complete injury at the tender age of four. I was standing between two cars parallel parked about two feet apart and the car in front of me rolled forward, pinning me between the two bumpers. A freak accident, but serious none the less. Back in 1968 there were no pediatric

 sized wheelchairs, my very first chair as a new paraplegic was a 16” wide Everest and Jennings with full length armrests and height adjustable leg rests. To say the least, it was not “optimal” for independent use on my part. But that was what was available back then. Flash forward fifty some years and a dozen or so wheelchairs later and I am sitting in a 14” wide Permobil ZRA with Spynergy Wheels and low-profile solid backrest and pressure relieving cushionquite the difference for sure.

PaulPaul and his wife Therese

As wheelchair technology has advanced and the variety of chairs, cushions and seating systems continues to grow, the need for not only knowledgeable professionals in the sales area, but also trained clinicians who are skilled in identifying the most appropriate wheelchair for each person grows. The development of Wheelchair Seating and Mobility clinics have been a truly valuable addition to the rehabilitation field. With wheelchairs now costing thousands of dollars and insurance companies trying to save money at every turn, many times people who rely on wheelchairs are often short changed and provided with inappropriate equipment for their needs.

I have used the services of a wheelchair clinic for the past six wheelchairs I have owned and am grateful that I was able to tap into the expertise of clinicians to help build a wheelchair that met my needs. The most important aspect of the wheelchair clinic experience from the end user's perspective is that every aspect of the user's life is taken into account. Things like how they spend their day, what are their goals, how do they get around outside of the house, what is their level of function, what secondary conditions need to be accounted for are all important are all discussed.

I like to say that every person with an SCI is like a snowflake, no two are alike. In order to maximize a person’s existing functional abilities, and preserve them as long as possible, a wheelchair needs to be exactly matched in size and in set-up and the wheelchair clinic is where this magic happens. I am living proof of the value of wheelchair clinics, and I am still doing things at the ripe old SCI age of 53 years (post injury) that I did back in my twenties and thirties.


We sincerely thank Paul for sharing his experience. Want to learn more about the provision of wheelchair seating & positioning for healthcare professionals? Check out our digital Wheelchair Seating & Positioning Guide.


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Heather Cianciolo, OTR/L, ATP/SMS
Regional Clinical Education Manager

Heather has been a practicing Occupational Therapist for 29 years specializing in the treatment of SCI, neuro, and orthopedic populations primarily in the acute and outpatient settings. Her specialization in seating and mobility began at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in NJ managing the Inpatient Wheelchair Clinic. After settling in RI, she established the Wheelchair Seating and Mobility Clinic at Southern New England Rehabilitation Center (SNERC) in Providence which has now been servicing adult inpatients and outpatients for over 25 years. Heather has served as an Adjunct Professor at the New England Institute of Technology in RI fabricating and teaching a course on Wheelchair Seating and Mobility. Heather has been a speaker and guest lecturer on seating and mobility technology including presentations at Providence College, Johnson and Wales University, TechACCESS of Rhode island, and SNERC. Heather joined the Permobil education team in 2020.

Categories: Complex Rehab, Seating and Positioning, Power, Manual, End Users, Clinician

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