Justin Turner & Darren Wiebe

Perceptions of Custom Wheelchair Seating Clinicians on Current Practices and New Technologies

Authors: Justin Turner, Darren Wiebe, Dr. William Miller, & Emma Smith

Background. The development and clinical implementation of custom wheelchair seating technologies have improved the lives of many wheelchair users worldwide (Requejo, Furumasu, & Mulroy, 2015). Nonetheless, many such technologies (e.g., 3-D scanning, digital fabrication, CNC Milling, 3-D printing, telerehabilitation) remain underutilized by clinicians who, instead, employ low-tech custom seating practices that may be more time-consuming, more expensive, less accurate and often inaccessible to individuals in remote communities (Kim, Kim, & Schmeler, 2012; Tasker, Shapcott, & Holland, 2011). Method. Using semi-structured interviews in this qualitative study, we explore what wheelchair seating specialists think about current custom wheelchair seating practices.  Furthermore, we garner the specialists’ opinions on the potential to introduce new technologies in their practice as well as the suspected impact of such change.  In this study we included Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Custom Wheelchair Technicians and Rehabilitation Technologists that practice in custom wheelchair seating, where standard off-the-shelf seating does not meet the client’s needs. Analysis. After interviewing five participants, we developed themes through constant comparative analysis and compared the themes to ensure intercoder agreement and interrater reliability.  The identified themes provide insight into practicing clinicians’ perceptions of currently practiced and alternative, technology-enhanced custom wheelchair seating systems. Significance. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine wheelchair seating specialists’ thoughts about new technologies and why or why not they are currently utilized. These data can be used by various healthcare stakeholders (including: clinicians, engineers, funders, program managers and custom wheelchair companies) to develop superior, more accessible products and adapt practice to better serve wheelchair users.

After attending this presentation, session participants will:

  1.              Understand study participants’ perceptions of the current custom wheelchair seating systems
  2.              Describe three factors which influence the use of new technologies in clinical practice
  3.              Describe three ways new technologies could be integrated into their current clinical practice


Kim, K. Y., Kim, Y. S., & Schmeler, M. R. (2012). Remote decision support for wheeled mobility devices. Expert Systems with Applications, 39(2012), 7345-7354.doi:10.1016/j.eswa.2012.01.083

Requejo, P. S., Furumasu, J., & Mulroy, S. J. (2015). Evidence-based strategies for preserving mobility for elderly and aging manual wheelchair users. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 31(1), 26-41. doi:10.1097/TGR.0000000000000042

Tasker, L. H., Shapcott, N. G., & Holland, P. M. (2011). The use and validation of a laser scanner for computer aided design and manufacturing of wheelchair seating. Journal of Medical Engineering & Technology, 35(6-7), 377-385. doi:10.3109/03091902.2011.601783