The chair selection team can be either an interior designer, family member, caregiver, and the disabled person, collectively called ‘Team S’ for this blog. A medical therapist is the most suitable person to evaluate and advise on the seating needs of the person in question.
In the first place, Team S must understand the person’s physical limitations, abilities, body shape, size, and the activities to be completed while in the chair. Discuss problems, client skills, and goals to get this understanding. Some joints may have contractures and so have no or little flexibility. Sitting up straight with the correct balanced posture and comfort is the goal. Posture is either dynamic (moving) or static.
The shape, orientation, and flexibility of a person’s spine, hips, limbs, knees, shoulders, and neck make up the framework to sitting correctly.
The three main spinal challenges are: kyphosis, lordosis, and scoliosis. These challenges may be improved when sitting in a chair or may need to be accommodated with additional cushioning and supports.
How to sit in a chair with a stable posture
- Position hips and buttock at the back of the chair. Weight to be evenly distributed for pelvic stability.
- Place upper legs side by side, at 90º to hips.
- Position knees side by side, at 90º to upper legs.
- The feet must be positioned on the floor with a natural ankle angle. If required, a footstool or block can be used to rest the feet on.
- Position back approximately 90º to hips. Use supports to achieve a comfortable relaxed position. For example, a lumbar support on the lower back.
- The neck and head to be in a functional position. Use supports to achieve a comfortable, relaxed position.
- Place the arms on the chair armrests or lap. This must not cause the shoulders to rise unnaturally.
• The width of the chair to be suitable to the size of the person, with sufficient space to rest hands alongside upper legs or on armrest/s. In a chair without arms, allow for space for the person to use their hands to push on the chair seat to lift themselves up. The seat should not be too wide as the sitter may lean over to one side and be unbalanced.
• The measurement from the front to the back of the seat must accommodate the buttocks and upper limbs and the knees should extend two fingers beyond the front edge of the seat.
• The height of the back of the chair must facilitate the support required by the user: mid back, upper back, shoulder, ear, head height.
• Firm and comfortable upholstery and a cleanable chair finish is important.
• Keeping consistency in the seat height of chairs is beneficial for those who transfer from wheelchairs to other chairs independently or using transfer boards.
• Beware; chairs that tilt are not good for people with swallowing difficulties and concerns of their catheter not working.
• Each individual has unique needs and the use of supports can assist to ensure their comfort.
Examples of support cushions
Slimline lumbar support
Team S’s choices for the dining chair
Team S’s choice for the recliner chair