Everybody has their own needs and specific requirements, so choosing a suitable wheelchair can be complicated. There are three main questions to ask yourself:
- Is the chair suitable for my environment?
- Is the chair suitable for my intended use?
- Is the chair suitable for my specific needs?
Most chairs can be configured with different seat sizes and positions as well as choices of armrests and footrests, however, it’s important to keep the above questions in mind to find your perfect chair.
Are you planning on using your chair for mostly indoor use or outdoor use? Do you use your chair in a city or countryside? It’s important to look at the suitability of a chair for where you will use it most. If you’re planning on traveling out in the cold regularly, you’ll need enough space to wear warmer clothing comfortably. Also, you may want to look at the chair’s ability to travel over rougher terrain.
Are you planning on using your chair for sport? If so, you will be looking for a lighter chair, often as light as possible, and with the option of folding footrests. If you’re planning on traveling and folding your chair often, you will need a chair that folds up without tools and one that takes up as little space as possible.
It’s important to look at the features that are vital for your disability or specific needs, this isn’t an area to compromise on. Think about posture control and how you will transfer yourself from the wheelchair to a car seat, bed, or toilet. Your size and weight will also be an important factor – choosing a seat 2-4cm wider than your hips is a good general rule and always make sure the wheelchair is approved for your weight.
Electric vs manual vs ultra-light wheelchairs
Electric wheelchairs are ideal for those that cannot propel themselves. There are various models available from compact indoor wheelchairs to stronger models with more features ideal for outdoor use.
If you’re looking for a manual wheelchair, you’ll need to decide if it will be mostly pushed by another person (non-self-propelled) or if a self-propelled one is more suitable. Self-propelled wheelchairs have larger rear wheels and are designed for people with a higher level of independence. Non-self-propelled wheelchairs are narrower and have smaller rear wheels.
There are four main materials used in wheelchair design:
- Steel – Heavy, sturdy and resistant.
- Aluminium – Light and easy to transport.
- Titanium – Lightweight.
- Carbon Fiber – Ultralightweight and durable.
Rigid vs folding
The final feature we’ll look at in this blog post is folding frames. The chassis of chairs with a non-folding frame is much lighter as it doesn’t have the joints and hinges needed by a folding frame. However, although folding chairs are heavier, they are easier to transport.
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