How To Choose A Wheelchair
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 sort of wheelchair by an Occupational
Therapist whilst others might want a wheelchair for when an elderly
relative comes to stay.
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 the
wheelchair will be pushed by an attendant.
A folding wheelchair is a good choice for occasional
use as they can easily be dismantled, folded and transported by
car. The rear wheels will usually come off, and the back might fold
down 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 very rough guide, folding wheelchairs weigh
around 33-44lbs / 15-20Kg, which doesn t sound too heavy, but remember
that somebody will be pushing wheelchair, and perhaps getting it
in and out of the car.
Folding wheelchairs are available in various sizes, but often do
not offer the specialised features that a prescribed wheelchair
can offer. For others, the wheelchair will be used more often, perhaps
all day, at work, or indoors, for example. For this sort of wheelchair
user, the comfort and manoeuvrability is 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 is more important than whether it folds. These
rigid, self propelled wheelchairs combine a lighter frame and wheels.
They might have a more specialised back, seat cushion, foot rests
and arm rests.
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 wheel chair
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 aluminium. It probably
won t have traditional style foot rests, as these will be incorporated
into the frame. It might not have arm rests or handles, as it won
t need to be pushed. It is also likely to have customisable front
and rear wheels so that the user has the most appropriate wheels
and tyres for their needs. The wheels on some rigid wheelchairs
can be pushed inwards so that they lean towards the user to provide
more responsiveness. The highly adjustable and customisable nature
of these wheelchairs means that the user might only needs one wheelchair
for all activities day to day 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 that
they don t have to rely on others, and can maintain their independence.
These very lightweight wheelchairs are utilising a lot of 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 simply 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 of aluminium, 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 sport wheelchair weighs roughly
a third of the weight of a standard steel folding wheelchair, and
so 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
any 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 cross roads,
to the size and width of the front castors.
Whatever style of wheelchair you choose, a wheelchair cushion will
be recommended; this improves posture, comfort and can help to prevent
If you require assistance in choosing your wheelchair, why not let
an experienced mobility dealer guide you into making the right choice.
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