Buying the right wheelchair can greatly improve the quality of life for those needing them. Becoming wheelchair bound doesn’t mean you can’t do anything anymore or you can’t get around. On the contrary, it can actually help you in ways you might not have imagined without it. However it’s crucial to your health and safety to choose the correct one for your needs.
To start, consider what the wheelchair is needed for. Is it for your home or is it for outdoor use? Is it to just get from a car to an office or is it needed for longer periods of time? Do you want to push it yourself or do you have a caregiver who will push you? What seat measurement do you need? What type of footrests and what type of arms will work best for you? Let’s explore some of the different options.
The most basic wheelchair is the manual wheelchair. This is the one with large wheels in the back which make it possible for the patient themselves to push around.
They are available in lightweight, which can be anywhere from 27 – 35 pounds, which for a wheelchair is very light. (Standard manual wheelchairs can weigh up to 40 pounds.) There are also extra wide wheelchairs as well as bariatric wheelchairs, which are heavier and bulkier, but offer reliable stability and support for heavier weights.
Most manual chairs fold very nicely for easy storage, also making it easy to get in and out of a car or van. The leg rests come off very easily as well, making the wheelchair lighter and more compact when it’s folded.
In regards to the arms you can either choose desk length arms or full arms. You may choose desk arms if the user wants to easily wheel the chair up to a table or desk. The shorter arms give it the capability to get closer to the table and have the user’s feet resting comfortably underneath it. This makes it easier for the patient to eat or work on a table. Full armrests, on the other hand, give the patient more room to rest their hands as well as something to hold onto when they are getting in and out of the chair.
Wheelchair leg rests come in swing away or elevating styles. The elevating leg rests are typically used if the patient wants to pick their feet up while sitting in the chair. The swing away leg rests move to the side of the chair making it easier for the patient to get in and out. You may want to consider a reclining wheelchair which has a reclining back so the user can lean back comfortably.
If you need (and have) a caregiver to push you, consider a transport chair. These lightweight wheelchairs are used for exactly what the name is; to transport. This is great for getting from a car to an office or getting from one place to another in an easy and simple way. Transport chairs are usually very light, weighing approximately 15 pounds. Transport chairs have a very basic design, since they are not meant to sit in for long periods of time. These also come with different arms and leg rests depending on what is needed. They typically come with either 8” or 12” back wheels. For outdoors or on carpet surfaces it is usually easier to wheel with the 12” back wheels.
Some transport chairs come with hand brakes so the caregiver can lock them, while others are designed with the brake on the wheels so the patient themselves can easily lock the chair wheels. Transport wheelchairs also fold very easily making it a pleasure to get in and out of a car or van.
Other wheelchair options include power wheelchairs and medical scooters. These are used for patients that have the ability to drive themselves and want independence without physical exertion. They can be used for indoors or outdoors for lots of different functions. It makes it easier to get around outdoors on longer outings being that you can just drive around wherever you are going. A motorized wheelchair typically has the same functions however it looks and feels like a wheelchair, just that it is motorized. A power scooter can be used to go shopping or for any outing for that matter. They usually come with a basket in the front to place your belongings. These scooters either come with 3 wheels or 4 wheels. Some come with the seat that swings around making it easier to get in and out.
Read more about wheelchair selection and wheelchair cushions in our wheelchair buying guide.