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Thread: Wheelchair Back: Fixed Height or Adjustable?

  1. #1
    Senior Member NikkiMaya's Avatar
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    Wheelchair Back: Fixed Height or Adjustable?

    I am in the process of purchasing a new wheelchair, and people on this forum have kindly helped me in the recent past. Now I am back to ask another question. My current wheelchair, a Quickie GPV, came with an adjustable height nylon back that can be set at 12"-16". I had the nylon removed and currently have a cushion with laterals from The Comfort Company attached on quick release. When I bought my current chair five years ago, I was blissfully ignorant. I ordered the chair almost completely standard from Sunrise Medical.

    I have wised up and learned a lot on these forums. My new chair (either a Tilite ZRA or a Crossfire T6) will be a custom fit. In that vein, I want to make sure I get an appropriate back height for my new chair. Some things to take into consideration, are the fact that I will need to have bolt-on height adjustable push handles. This is a non-negotiable feature. I am also planning on buying a new back cushion out of pocket. This is unfortunate but necessary. The people at my seating clinic totally discounted the clearly stated information I provided on what I was looking for in a back cushion. I am not comfortable with the cushion I have now, and I also need to be able to fold down the seat back on the chair easily, as I travel in cars frequently, and with the laterals, I can't do that. Constantly detaching the entire, heavy back cushion, even with the quick release features is too difficult to do.

    It is my understanding that a fixed height seat back is less weight because there is less hardware. Of course I am seeking to keep the weight as low as possible on this new chair. Taking everything into consideration, should I perhaps try to figure out the best seat height, and go with a fixed height back. Then I can buy the chair with that fixed height back and purchase a new cushion at that height (I do realize that this will mean that I am locking myself in to using cushions at that one height)? Or should I be cautious and stick with the adjustable height I currently have? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!
    In our world constituted of differences of all kinds, it is not the disabled, but society at large that needs special education...to become a genuine society for all. -Frederic Major, Former UNESCO Director General

  2. #2
    NikkiMaya,

    "... I want to make sure I get an appropriate back height ... I am also planning on buying a new back cushion ..."
    If your new back cushion is to be one of the Stimulite Tension Adjustable Backs then please be aware that there are only two height options - 12 inches and 16 inches - for the Stimulite back cushion. The Stimulite option is further narrowed since the 12" height applies only to rigid chairs, and the 16" height applies only to folding chairs.

    "... should I perhaps try to figure out the best seat height, and go with a fixed height back ..."
    Many consider the fixed, made-to-fit option to be the better option. However, the fixed option does; as you have already noted, necessitate careful planning since a subsequent adjustment is not practicable.

  3. #3
    Nikki,

    I have a Terminator T6. I went with the 12 inch fixed to 90° and put the ADI 2 point pro so I could have angle adjust ability. Before that, I had a fixed elite. 12 inches was enough to give me a theoretical maximum back height of 16 inches. I think mine is 14 overall.

    A fixed shell like ADI's Fixed Elite is great if you know exactly how your body will react to it. I did not feel going to a metal shop for a new chair issue so no fixed back. I rather have a little bit of room to find the real sweet spot.

    I have experience with the 12 inch supracor back cushion. It will take some getting used to. I have muscle tone on my lower back so it's not uncomfortable but it is a hard cushion. The upside is that it is very light.

    You might find yourself putting it a little higher than the shell so you don't feel the edge of the shell or the cushion.

  4. #4
    Nikki, Have you taken a look at the carbon fiber Matrix MX1?

    I have "Mono Mount" version of this back installed on my old New Halls Wheels chair (sorry, no photos) and an ADI low profile installed on the other, a ZR2.

    The MX1 is lightweight, angle and height adjustable. It's a great back, I have no complaints. Don't quote me but I think you can order it from Bike-on.com for about $475. I doubt you'll find it listed on their website, so call and speak to Scott Pellett, the owner. (Sportaid quoted me a price a couple of hundred dollars higher, though I eventually got this covered in-network through my insursance.)

  5. #5
    And all this time, I got the Dr. No bullshit from ADI about adjustable carbon fiber.

    Whatever… Planned to go all aluminum by the time the new chair decision came around.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by radio_buddha View Post
    And all this time, I got the Dr. No bullshit from ADI about adjustable carbon fiber.

    Whatever… Planned to go all aluminum by the time the new chair decision came around.
    The MX1 has only recently come to the market.

  7. #7
    IMO, the difference in weight is very small. You may wind up not liking the back or may change to a different cushion. Either one could affect what you need for back height.

    It seems kind of ridiculous to to buy a full adjustable chair and not get an height adjustment for the back.

    You've had one chair already so must have a pretty good idea of the f/r seat heights setc. If you are concerned about weight, get a Zr or ,lighter, Tr with back height adjustment.

    I have owned dozens and dozens of chairs literally. I doubt there is one that i haven't played around with the back height. One pressure sore and a need for a different height cushion throws your fixed back height out.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by NikkiMaya View Post
    Some things to take into consideration, are the fact that I will need to have bolt-on height adjustable push handles. This is a non-negotiable feature.
    I'm not familiar with how the Ti or Quickie bolt on push handles are secured, but be sure to take a very careful look at this. The TE equivalent has no detente, and depends only on screw pressure to stay in place. We used them exactly once (and if anyone wants a pair of bolt on push handles for a Terminator, just PM me).

    An alternative is permanent fold down push handles.

  9. #9
    I have bolt on height adjustable stroller handles living in harmony with my back rest. There's a picture around here somewhere. If I find it on my computer, I'll put it up again.

  10. #10
    Nikki, why the height adjustable push handles? They are not theat safe in that it is only a cotter pin holding them on. How bout the fold down handles. They are lighter and stayout of the wat when not needed. You are trying to save weight; the adjustable height handles are heavy in comparrison to the fold down ones.

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