Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Beverly Johnson




Physical therapists are often involved in wheelchair prescription. An important factor when recommending or prescribing a wheelchair is proper fit. Proper wheelchair fitting is critical when attempting to get maximum independence, normalize tone in spastic or low tone clients, as well as decreasing bony deformities and pressure ulcers. Crucial measurements for wheelchair fitting include backrest height and seat width, depth, and height. To assure ultimate independence an individuals mental competence, ROM in upper extremities, cardiopulmonary health, and coordination must be evaluated prior to prescribing a wheelchair. Options to consider are the type of seat cushion, wheelchair frame, peripherals, and safety.

Seat cushions and support systems are important considerations in wheelchair prescriptions. The most common materials used for cushion and support systems include different types of foams, gels, and air pockets. Each cushion has different characteristics. These different characteristics include seat stability, cleanability, durability, cost and often, most importantly, the ability to distribute pressure evenly. Variations in wheelchair frames and peripherals may also have a large impact on the client's lifestyle. The above items should be considered to find the most desired balance for the client between mobility, stability, and protection against further morbidity.

The purpose of this independent study is to help physical therapists and other allied health professionals' make informed decisions when assisting in wheelchair prescription for their clients. This will be accomplished through a review of the current literature available on wheelchair frames, cushions, and peripherals as well as current seating and positioning practices.