Regaining Your Mobility: Getting the Right Wheelchair For You

If walking is difficult or impossible for you due to illness, injury, or disability, you’ll appreciate the need to find a way to get around. Mobility is a key factor in the quality of your life. This is something a wheelchair can give you. However, getting the right wheelchair for you is a critical decision that demands careful consideration. Here’s a guide to getting the right wheelchair for you.

First let’s look at the types of wheelchair available.

At the most basic, you have a heavy wheelchair made of tubular steel fitted with sling seats and few features. These are adequate for loaned items or short term use. As a rule, the lighter the wheelchair, the higher the cost. This is due to the choice of materials and specialised manufacturing methods that the lightweight items require. In the higher price range are brand name lightweight chairs with a wide range of options and customisability. They are suitable for persons with long-term disabilities.

Now let’s look at the matter of locomotion. Wheelchairs are either manual or powered.

Manual wheelchairs are self-propelled by using your hands usually to move the hand rims of the large rear wheels. For this reason users need good upper body strength. So these are best suited to people whose mobility problem involves only their legs.

Another type of manually-propelled wheelchair is a lever-drive one. The user propels the chair forwards by using a lever that is pumped back and forth. Some chairs allow the user to move using one or both feet instead of using the rims.

Other manual wheelchairs are pushed along by an attendant.

Power wheelchairs are powered by electric motors controlled by a built-in joystick. The basic types are rear, centre, front-wheel driven and four-wheel driven. They are powered by batteries. These are charged by connecting them to standard electric outlets.

Now that we know the types of wheelchairs available, here are some questions you need to ask yourself before making a buying decision.

Is your need for a wheelchair likely to be short or long term? If the latter, you’ll probably want an upmarket lightweight item with customised features.

Can you use your arms or feet to propel your wheelchair? If not, you probably need a powered wheelchair.

How will you transfer to and from the wheelchair? This affects the design of the wheelchair. If you need to slide in sideways, then the seat will need to be moveable, for example.

Then you have to clarify the demands of your life. Do you need to travel frequently by air or train, for example? If so, you would be wise to go for a lightweight wheelchair.

Another factor is your weight. If you’re seriously overweight, you may need a special bariatric wheelchair to accommodate your excess poundage.

Once you have a good basic idea of your requirements, you should visit a firm specialising in mobility equipment. Such a firm will be best equipped to advise you on the right wheelchair for your needs.