How to buy a wheelchair
A wheelchair buying guide
In today's world, mobility is a necessity and wheelchairs get you moving when you need to most. Of course, when you're in need of a wheelchair, you want the best wheelchair to accommodate all your needs. When determining how to buy a wheelchair, you need to keep the following considerations in mind:
- Different types of wheelchairs
- Wheelchair dimensions for the seat
- Arm style
- Foot support
>> Consider different types of wheelchairs
The different types of wheelchairs are categorized by the use of the wheelchair: manual, electrical and transport. As you determine how to buy a wheelchair, consider which of the following wheelchairs will best suit your needs:
- Manual wheelchairs: Manual wheelchairs can be moved and maneuvered by you. They have easy-to-grip, large wheels for you to maneuver back and forth.
- Electric wheelchairs: Electric wheelchairs use a power source to charge their batteries and are moved by a push of a button. These wheelchairs are also called travel wheelchairs because they are easy to use in crowded spaces.
- Transport wheelchairs: Transport wheelchairs must be pushed by another person. Their wheels are small so you would not be able to move it by yourself. However, these wheelchairs can maneuver through small spaces more easily.
Also, consider getting a folding wheelchair for easy storage; only manual and transport wheelchairs are able to fold up. However, some powered wheelchairs can be maneuvered for easy storage as well.
>> Consider the seat
Once you have determined the type of wheelchair you need, it is important to consider the wheelchair dimensions of the seat and back. The seat width from arm to arm, seat depth from the back to the front and the seat height from the floor to the seat should all be considered when determining how to buy a wheelchair. The width from arm to arm is what determines if you will actually fit into the seat. In order to get accurate measurements, measure the width between your left and right hips and ensure the width between each arm of the wheelchair is at least the width of your hips, if not larger. The depth of the seat from the back to the front should be determined to ensure your seat is comfortable to sit in. While in a seated position, measure from your buttocks to the inside of your knee; use this measurement to determine the depth of the seat. The height of the seat from the floor to the seat is important to ensure your feet do not dangle or drag on the floor. In a seated position, measure the inside of your knee to the bottom of your heel to get the height you need.
Another factor to consider is the seat cushioning, which comes in three types: comfort, positioning and preventive.
- Comfort cushions: Comfort cushions come in foam or gel and are used to give you a relaxed and comfortable feel while sitting in your wheelchair.
- Positioning cushions: Positioning cushions are usually made from a contoured material that helps you to achieve correct posture while sitting in the wheelchair.
- Preventive cushions: Preventive cushions use air to prevent you from getting sores or aches while sitting in your chair.
>> Determine the arm style you prefer
There are two different arm styles to consider when determining how to buy a wheelchair: full arm style and desk arm style. The full arm style is the typical wheelchair design that supports your entire arm. The desk style is a shorter arm style that allows you to wheel your chair up to a table or desk like a chair.
>> Consider the foot support you need
When choosing which wheelchair to buy, consider the support you need for your legs and feet, as different types of wheelchairs offer different front riggings. There are two types of front riggings: the leg rest and the foot rest. The leg rest supports your entire leg including your calf and foot. The foot rest can be removable or fixed and is there to support only your foot. To ensure you are getting the right amount of support, ask your doctor whether you need a leg rest or foot rest.
>> Consider the wheels
Different kinds of wheelchairs come with different wheels. Some are smaller so they are easy to maneuver by others whereas others are bigger so you can maneuver your chair yourself. It is important to consider your arm reach when deciding which wheelchair to buy; you will need larger wheels for shorter arms and smaller wheels for longer arms to ensure a comfortable grip if you will be maneuvering your wheelchair on your own.
>> Consider wheelchair features
Lastly, think about the features you would like to see in your wheelchair. Depending on which wheelchair you get, you can find wheelchairs with pockets, trays, cup holders and other useful additions. One great option is a reclining wheelchair, which acts much like a reclining chair and can provide you a little more comfort. There are features for electric powered wheelchairs as well, such as fans, adjustable seat height and a stand-up feature that helps you to stand from your seated position in the wheelchair.
Finding the perfect wheelchair is essential for comfort, healing and support. Careful consideration and measurements will help you find a wheelchair that accommodates all your needs.