Choosing a Wheelchair
There are a few things to consider when choosing a wheelchair. Comfort and mobility of the user are the most important, but you will also need to keep the needs of any assistants who will regularly help the wheelchair user.
Features to consider
A rigid frame is stronger than a folding frame, but may make transporting the wheelchair more cumbersome.
A Folding frame will fold – but generally only once the battery has been removed.
Smaller wheeled chairs are generally easier to drive – which is good for confined spaces.
Larger wheeled chairs are better over uneven surfaces.
Pneumatic tyres – must be inflated regularly to maintain air pressure and checked for punctures, however they do give a smoother and more comfortable ride. They also give better traction on kerbs, slopes and rougher ground.
Solid Tyres – do not puncture or need inflating, which may make it easier to manouvere on certain surfaces.
Puncture Proof Tyres – are the middle ground between Pneumatic Tyres and Solid Tyres. They are made from open cell rubber compound which helps with shock absorption.
Deep Tread Pneumatic Tyres – provide increased grip and stability on slopes, grass, muddy areas as well as rough and uneven ground.
Detachable footrests – are completely removable, which helps to reduce the weight of the chair during transportation. The fact that they are removable can also assist in accessing the chair during assisted transfers on and off the wheelchair.
Swing away footrests – can be swung out of the way to give better access during seat transfers.
One piece foot rests – give a greater area of support for the user’s feet and increase mobility of the user’s feet as well.
Elevating footrests – are available for people who want to raise their legs.
Height adjustable footrests – make it possible to accommodate the leg length of the user.
Angle adjustable footrests – are a useful feature to people who suffer from leg and foot spasms.
Full length Armrests – run the full length of the seat from back to front. These arm rests provide more support especially when standing up or sitting down.
Desk Style arm rests – are shorter but allow access to the work surfaces at seated height. The downside is that they do not offer as much support as full length armrests. Desk style armrests may not be suitable for people who need to push down on them in order to stand up.
Adjustable armrests – provide maximum support & comfort.
Detachable armrests – can reduce the weight of the wheelchair, which makes transportation easier. They also aid in transferring from seat to wheelchair.
The height of the backrest should be high enough to stabilize the lower back as a minimum, but this is often set up as a personal preference so the wheelchair is comfortable. The backrest height should generally reach shoulder blade level or beyond.
Folding backrests – reduce the weight of he wheelchair
Non folding backrests – provide firmer support for the back
Semi or fully reclining backrests – can either be manually or electronically adjusted by the user.
It is important that the user is fitted to the wheelchair seat, as the style and size of the seat has a direct impact on posture and overall comfort. It is best to wear outdoor clothing when you are being fitted to allow enough room to fit comfortably even on a cold day.