Selecting the best wheelchair is important for any long term wheelchair user. Shorter term users who have had an operation or suffered and accident but expect to be mobile soon have less to be concerned about. Although many of the selection factors seem obvious, it is often necessary to review each factor to make sure the right decision is made when buying a wheelchair.
Factors affecting wheelchair selection
On of the first things to consider is how the wheelchair user will transfer to and from the wheelchair and whether help is available. Another important and related factor is how the wheelchair will be propelled, either by the wheelchair user or by an attendant. Please give these factors some thought as it may affect the type and size of the wheelchair.
The transfer to and from the wheelchair has some big considerations on the type of wheelchair arm rests and foot rests that are needed. If the user be able to stand and walk to the wheelchair, then full length fixed arm rests are best for stability. On the other hand, flip-up or swing away, folding, or removable arm rests are considered best for those users who have to slide transfer on to their wheelchair. For some users who have no trouble transferring to and from their wheelchairs, it might be best to use shorter or lower arm-rests particularly when the user works at a desk. Shorter arm rests allow the wheelchair user to get closer to the table they are using or height adjustable arm rests allow them to be lowered so that they will go under the front of the desk.In addition, having the wrong height may give the user to have bad posture which can then progress to long term health issues involving the back.
The wheelchairs seat width and depth depends on the wheelchair users physical build. Standard wheelchairs have seats widths from 14" to 30". The standard wheelchair seat depth is 16" but goes up to 20". In order to measure the ideal seat size, the wheelchair user must be measured in two ways; from the width of the hips and the length from the users hip to the knee needs to be measured. This particular measurement should be taken while the user is sitting down comfortably. Subtract one inch from this measurement and you will get the ideal seat depth. This calculation has been used for years and caters for users of all sizes.
Wheelchair set height and seat depth
Secondly, the wheelchair seat height is a factor determining the safety of the user and the ease by which they can transfer. Some users also prefer to propel the wheelchair with their feet, often moving in a backward direction. Seat height is essential here allowing them to use their heels whilst still comfortable. Although leg length is the biggest factor, overall height of the user needs to be considered. The wheelchair users height is determines the backrest height. Also, the strength of the users upper body affects which type of wheelchair frame is required. Those wheelchair users with limited upper body strength may prefer a lightweight wheelchair to reduce the strain on the users arms, shoulders and wrists.
Please bear in mind that a standard wheelchair has the maximum load capacity of18 stone. As average body weights are increasing massively in recent years, bigger stronger wheelchairs have become available. These are known as bariatric wheelchairs and will support users up to 90 stone in weight !
Wheelchair foot rests and elevated leg rests
Finally, wheelchair foot rest(s) need to be considered. Wheelchair foot rests come in many shapes and sizes, fixed, flip-up, swing away, light weight alloy and steel, adjustable to suit the height of the user. Wheelchair leg rests can elevate to allow the user to raise or stretch the legs, these are referred to as elivated leg rests and are ideal for users who experience leg swelling.
For those with specialist needs and bigger budgets, custom built wheelchairs are always an option. Here every aspect can be considered, measured and catered for.
Comfort and support are the key elements that warrant consideration so bearing all these factors in mind has significant effects on the type of wheelchair selected and the length of time the wheelchair user will remain comfortable.
Considering Lightweight Wheelchairs
As more lighter alloy materials become affordably available we tend to look at lightweight wheelchairs rather than the older steel framed wheelchairs. Affordability is one huge factor to consider with lightweight wheelchairs varying widely in price from £80 to £5000 for a specialist wheelchair such as a recliner or tilt in space wheelchair.
Lightweight wheelchair materials
Aluminium or titanium is used when manufacturing lightweight wheelchair frames, some more expensive lightweight wheelchairs are built using carbon fibre in the frame and even the wheels. Lightweight wheelchairs are the best option for those who can afford them and rely heavily on their own mobility and freedom. Having a lightweight wheelchair is a big help to those users that lead an active lifestyle.
Some with physical disabilities take part in sports such as wheelchair basketball or tennis and rely on a lightweight easily manoeuvrable wheelchair that responds well and quickly to their input and the wheelchair allows the user to propel themselves further and enjoy physical activities. Although the wheelchair sports are ruled rather differently lightweight wheelchairs allow for more active hobbies and sports.
Benefits of folding lightweight wheelchairs
Folding wheelchairs are also often lightweight and suit those folk who travel on a regular basis. Getting to and from work, or visiting friends and relatives become easier with lightweight folding wheelchairs as they are more compact making them easier to lift stow and transport even fit in the car boot. Although some folding wheelchairs have fewer features than any regular lightweight wheelchairs, they remain popular due to the ease of portability.