Adult perspectives and experiences using multifunction power wheelchairs in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Maria Whitcombe-Shingler
8 March 2013

Whitcombe-Shingler, M. (2013). Adult perspectives and experiences using multifunction power wheelchairs in Aotearoa, New Zealand (A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand) [PDF 705.7KB] 



This study explored the perspectives and experiences of adults using multifunction power wheelchairs in Aotearoa, New Zealand. A multifunction power chair in the context of this research is defined as a power wheelchair which has two or more of the following power functions: tilt in space; seat elevate; recline; stand and power elevating leg rests.

A qualitative descriptive methodology using in-depth, individual semi structured interviews was conducted with a convenience sample of ten wheelchair users from New Zealand. The main themes identified were: mobility, environmental factors, independence/ ‘well-doing’, personal and social identity and ‘well-living’. The findings gave rich detailed descriptions of some of the benefits and challenges for a group of multifunction power wheelchair users.

The benefits identified included increased mobility and independence. Improved personal identity and communication through the use of an elevated seat or standing position which achieved inclusion and face to face communication. Greater social participation and function i.e. ‘well-doing’ achieved a state of ‘well-living’, defined as self-determined, satisfactory living.

Challenges related to environmental access, repairability, and the increased weight of the wheelchairs which resulted in transportation problems. Whilst the wheelchairs enabled increased autonomy and independence, this in turn led to a series of different issues, such as the need for person centred outcomes, practice knowledge, broader funding criteria, and backup support, which should be considered during the process from wheelchair assessment to provision and beyond. ‘Well-living’ can be achieved when mobility, function, and environmental factors are addressed to the user’s satisfaction.

Keywords: multifunction power wheelchairs, well-living, independence, personal identity, well-doing, environment

Maria Whitcombe-Shingler's research was supervised by Sian Griffiths.


This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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