Wheelchairs and scooters made easy

Australia’s first set of guidelines to help health professionals navigate the increasingly complex world of wheelchairs and scooters is now available, and it’s free.

By Stephen Easton

Two NSW government services for people with disabilities have jointly produced Australia’s first formal guidelines to help health professionals prescribe wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

Mainly for occupational therapists and physiotherapists, the new guidelines will also be useful to a range of other people working in aged care, health and disability support, and a summary version is also be available for quick and easy reference.

Lifetime Care and Support and Enable NSW have produced the 100-page booklet to help health professionals  mostly occupational therapists and physiotherapists  easily navigate the increasingly complex world of wheelchairs and scooters, by clearly presenting the latest research and evidence from over 200 sources and weighting the information according to its significance.

Manager of the Enable NSW clinical advisory service, Jackie Hiller, said there was now an enormous number of choices to make around wheelchairs, from their size to the number of special features available and different materials they are made of, which had led to an increasingly complex decision making process.

“Not only is there that complexity, but also readily available through the internet there’s a huge amount of information that has different levels of usefulness,” she said. “The guidelines help sort through the different features you might choose on a wheelchair and how important those features are and helps rate the evidence for those things.”

“It’s all very easily set out in boxes. Grade A is really important and mustn’t be overlooked whereas others are more consensus – things most people think are good practice, but there might be reasons why, in a particular instance, you would do them differently – so it helps people work out how important those factors are, which helps them inform clients as well. Often [clients] have heard some information, but is it really important?

“Some studies are well designed, well thought out and look at big groups of people – generally we want people to take more notice of those. Other studies are just an expert’s opinion and may still be useful but not generally what we consider to be as strong evidence.”

Ms Hiller said the guidelines would also be of use to other professionals, aged care providers and care workers, especially sections on working out goals, evaluating whether the chair or scooter has effectively achieved those goals and, for aged care providers in particular, a chapter on occupational health and safety.

Nursing staff, she said, might also find some of the information useful, particularly if they work with a number of clients using more complex wheelchairs, or are involved with purchasing several for use at a residential facility.

While the two bodies that produced the booklet are based in NSW, it is freely available online.

“People in other states are most welcome to get it through the website and certainly we would hope no one else feels they need to ‘reinvent the wheel’,” Ms Hiller added.

“Only a little bit is specific to New South Wales, including some requirements from the roads and traffic authority. Powered wheelchairs and scooters have some different regulations in different states, so it would be important [for interstate providers] to check with their own state authorities.

“For example, mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs must be registered in Queensland, but not in New South Wales.”

Tags: disability, nsw-health, occupational-therapist, physiotherapist, scooters, wheelchair,

Leave a Reply