Seating Terms to Know: Part 1

By Lee Ann Hoffman, O.T., MSc. Rehabilitation

September 20, 2017

Topics: Wheelchair Lifestyle

You may have come across several terms used to describe seating or the components of seating. Let us help you clarify a few of the terms that relate to seating systems.


Mounting Hardware


Mounting hardware refers to the fixing points and brackets used to connect or hold your seating system – such as back support –  to the frame of your wheelchair. This can be fixed – meaning the seating system is attached to the frame of the wheelchair – or removeable – meaning the seating system can be removed. Removeable seating systems often come with a quick release option that has a release function built into the mounting hardware. This can be especially helpful for removal or disassembly to assist with transportation or folding the wheelchair.


Outer Cover


The outer cover refers to the covers on items such as seat cushions, back supports, and head supports. Outer covers can be made of several different fabrics. Depending on the fabric, it may promote ‘breathability’ and assist with positioning by having a four-way stretch. This helps avoid increased pressure or incorrect posture due to the hammock effect where the fabric does not have the ability to give and surface tension is created due to the inability of the fabric to conform to the shape of the seating system. Fabric choices can also assist with keeping the seating system clean or assisting in the ease of cleaning.


Outer covers typically come in a variety of colors and fabric choices – so it not only fits your posture and seating needs, but also your personality and style.


Inner Cover


The inner cover refers to the cover housed inside the outer cover. It has an important role to play because it is used as a continence-moisture barrier. Be sure to check that the inner cover meets with your needs and still promotes a healthy microclimate.




Flex is a term that is often used to describe movement or movability in the product. The ability for the equipment to flex is important as it means that it can potentially move with you and promote function. Some individuals prefer flex and movement, while others find that the more rigid their equipment is, the better their stability and function is.


Make sure to see what works best for you and helps promote your function.




Vibration is a term used to describe the movement – typically unwanted – experienced by the individual in the wheelchair. If a seating system or a wheelchair does not have properties such as suspension, flex, or dampening such as pneumatic (air-filled) tires, then the individual may experience more vibration and feedback from the environment through the frame of the wheelchair, whether it be powered or manual. This environmental feedback will be translated into the body, resulting in you potentially becoming tired more easily, your posture being affected, and reduced stability and endurance. Vibrations can also trigger discomfort, pain, and spasms.


Elements that can help reduce vibration include, but are not limited to, pneumatic tires, suspension in mobility bases (seen on power and some manual wheelchairs), and the use of materials such as true carbon fiber.

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Lee Ann Hoffman, O.T., MSc. Rehabilitation

Lee Ann Hoffman, O.T., MSc. Rehabilitation

Lee Ann qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1999 in South Africa. She completed a post graduate certificate in Posture Management for complex disabilities in 2010, and obtained a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation: Posture Management, 2015 in the United Kingdom. Lee Ann has experience in working with children and adults with complex disabilities and adopts the 24-hour approach to postural management. She is currently a clinical educator for Invacare USA.

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