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How To Choose a Suitable Wheelchair

Published: 2009-01-29 - Updated: 2022-08-29
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Library of Wheelchair Types Publications

Synopsis: How to choose the right type of wheelchair to suit your requirements and disability. Somebody using the wheelchair independently will require a self-propelling (large wheels) model they push themselves. A self-propelled or transit wheelchair (smaller wheels) will be appropriate if an attendant pushes the wheelchair. A folding wheelchair is a good choice for occasional use as it can easily be dismantled, folded, and transported by car. The rear wheels usually come off, and the back might fold to save space.

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Definition

Wheelchair

A wheelchair is a chair with wheels used when walking is difficult or impossible due to illness, injury, problems related to old age, or disability. Wheelchairs come in a wide variety of formats to meet the specific needs of their users. They may include specialized seating adaptions and individualized controls and may be specific to particular activities, as seen with sports wheelchairs and beach wheelchairs. The most widely recognized distinction is between motorized wheelchairs, where propulsion is provided by batteries and electric motors, and manual wheelchairs, where the propulsive force is provided either by the wheelchair user or occupant pushing the wheelchair by hand (self-propelled) or by an attachment.

Main Digest

Nowadays, wheelchairs can be cheap to purchase and are widely available, so choosing a wheelchair can be confusing. Some people will have been prescribed a specific wheelchair by an Occupational Therapist, while others might want a wheelchair when an elderly relative comes to stay.

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Somebody using the wheelchair independently will require a self-propelling (large wheels) model they push themselves. A self-propelled or transit wheelchair (smaller wheels) will be appropriate if an attendant pushes the wheelchair.

A folding wheelchair is a good choice for occasional use as it can easily be dismantled, folded, and transported by car. The rear wheels usually come off, and the back might fold to save space. These wheelchairs are ideal for those going out for the day in the car, or perhaps for someone who can't walk as far as they once could but maybe don't need to be in a wheelchair all the time. A dedicated motor can be purchased to turn the manual wheelchair into an attendant-controlled powerchair, making hills much less of a problem.

If you are looking at a wheelchair for occasional use, the lighter it is, the easier it will be to dismantle and put in a car boot. As a rough guide, folding wheelchairs weigh around 33-44lbs / 15-20Kg, which doesn't sound too heavy, but remember that somebody will be pushing a wheelchair and perhaps getting it in and out of the car.

Folding wheelchairs are available in various sizes but often do not offer the specialized features that a prescribed wheelchair can offer. For others, the wheelchair will be used more often, perhaps all day, at work, or indoors. For this wheelchair user, comfort and maneuverability are likely to be much more important than how much the wheelchair costs. These wheelchairs are less likely to be folding models, as the performance and weight of the wheelchair are more important than whether it folds. These rigid, self-propelled wheelchairs combine a lighter frame and wheels. They might have a more specialized back, seat cushion, footrests, and armrests.

Wheelchair users who lead an active lifestyle, which might include playing sports such as tennis and basketball as well as driving and day-to-day living, will require a different sort of wheelchair again. These users are likely to move away from a cumbersome folding wheelchair to one that is very lightweight, smaller, and stronger than a traditional wheelchair. A sport wheelchair might even be constructed from titanium which is stronger and lighter than aluminum. It probably won't have traditional style footrests, as these will be incorporated into the frame. It might not have armrests or handles, as it won't need to be pushed. It is also likely to have customizable front and rear wheels so that the user has the most appropriate wheels and tires for their needs.

The wheels on some rigid wheelchairs can be pushed inwards to lean towards the user to provide more responsiveness. The highly adjustable and customizable nature of these wheelchairs means that the user might only need one wheelchair for all activities - daily living and sports. These lightweight chairs are easy to put in a car, and the wheelchair user can put their wheelchair in the car from the driver's seat. This means they don't have to rely on others and can maintain their independence. These very lightweight wheelchairs utilize many technology and techniques from mountain bike manufacturers. Indeed, some of these rigid wheelchairs resemble a mountain bike more than a traditional wheelchair and, depending on the model and specifications, may only weigh 15-17lbs / 8Kg.

The efficiency of a wheelchair can be measured easily in a non-scientific way. The user can see how far they move in a given wheelchair on a given surface in just one push. Because of the number of joints and weight of the steel or aluminum, a folding wheelchair loses a lot of energy so a folding wheelchair won't move as far as a rigid wheelchair per push. A titanium sports wheelchair weighs roughly a third of the weight of a standard steel folding wheelchair and will move much further per push. This is an important consideration when choosing a wheelchair.

The process of choosing a wheelchair can be complicated. The wheelchair manufacturers make this easier by providing a prescription form for some models. This is a step-by-step method of choosing the right wheelchair based on the user's condition, daily activities, and other special requirements. Depending on the complexity of the user's requirements, the wheelchair manufacturer may offer the service of a trained expert to help with the prescription. All sorts of situations are considered, from whether the user needs to crossroads, the size and width of the front casters.

Whatever style of wheelchair you choose, a wheelchair cushion will be recommended; this improves posture and comfort and can help to prevent pressure sores.

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Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Financial support is derived from advertisements or referral programs, where indicated. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.


Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2009, January 29). How To Choose a Suitable Wheelchair. Disabled World. Retrieved November 28, 2022 from www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/mobility/wheelchairs/choosing-wheelchair.php

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