What Can a Custom Chair Do for You?

A custom manual wheelchair does so much more than get you from point A to point B. A properly configured wheelchair should allow you to be actively present in your life, overcoming obstacles while protecting your body. Custom wheelchairs offer increased adjustability to tailor fit your needs.

The journey to a well configured custom manual wheelchair requires a knowledgeable team, an understanding of your barriers and goals, and a quality product. This process is critical to maintaining your independence and safety, both short and long-term.

Some of the most critical clinical goals of mobility equipment, especially custom manual wheelchairs include:

Maximizing Function

All wheelchairs were not created equal. A custom wheelchair ride should exceed your expectations not just in traveling in a straight line indoors, but across all obstacles in your home and community. From your turning radius to your center of gravity, your wheelchair should support, not limit, in accomplishing self-care, mobility, and transfer goals. The spaces accessed, the terrain traversed, and all the new places you wish to explore should be considered during your evaluation. With each new wheelchair, your world should continue to open and expand for you. Don’t accept push rims you cannot propel, wheel locks you cannot operate, or any part that increases your insecurity in your environment.

Improving Quality of Life

The ideal custom manual wheelchair should empower you to live as independently as possible, fulfilling all roles in life, whether it be within your family, workplace, or community. Choose the chair that is clinically appropriate and confidence boosting. The best chair for you will not consume your thoughts throughout the day or during each and every push. Focus on what matters, the right chair will be there for you along the way.

Injury Prevention

Unfortunately, in the absence of proper shoulder alignment and wheelchair propulsion technique, daily cumulative effects can lead to upper extremity joint damage and pain that may result in decreased mobility, and decline in functional independence. Research shows a strong correlation between shoulder pain and long term manual wheelchair use, but the battle is not lost. Customized wheelchairs provide the opportunity for fine-tuned vertical and horizontal axle adjustment optimizing center of gravity, shoulder to wheel alignment, and a healthy propulsion stroke. Collectively, these factors provide a healthy shoulder environment to delay or prevent shoulder derangement or dysfunction.

Minimizing Fatigue

A well configured custom manual wheelchair will minimize fatigue through materials, design, and configuration. Vibration damping, light-weight materials such as carbon fiber translate into a decreased physical toll on the body with every push. Efficient, thoughtful design results in a more responsive chair that becomes an extension of the user. Maximized rigidity, in both high performance folding and rigid frame wheelchairs, provides efficient movement and decreased energy loss. Wheelchairs are not one size fits all. A well configured, efficiently designed custom wheelchair made from the best materials will result in decreased energy loss allowing you to go farther, longer.


Maximizing function, improving quality of life, preventing injury, and minimizing fatigue are all attainable clinical goals for wheelchair prescription. Wheelchair users should play an active role in their  equipment selection and insist on the wheelchair that optimizes performance for all of their activities. A custom configurable chair should be tailor fit and adjusted as needed to ensure your every need is met.  The wheelchair should be an extension of you and should match your body, level of function, and personal goals. You deserve the best, so demand the best. Be vocal about your barriers, goals, and roles you fill in your life. Collaborate with your clinical and industry experts to select and configure the best chair for you. If your current chair is not meeting your needs, discuss your options with an equipment specialist today.

About Olivia Tefera, PT, DPT

Olivia specializes in DME, CRT AND SCI physiotherapy. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a Doctor of Physiotherapy degree from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.