If you’re in the process of purchasing your first wheelchair, there are a couple of important factors to consider, such as the equipment design and your lifestyle needs. So before you make your purchase, consider a few of these factors first in order to help determine the best choice for you.
Heavy steel chairs with little adaptability mark the lower end of the price spectrum. As the price range increases, chairs become more lightweight, adaptable, heavy-duty, and come with more seating options and accessories. Ultralight wheelchairs with all-terrain features and extensive seating options and accessories are at the top end of the market.
Standard wheelchairs in the lower price range are typically used by people recovering from a short-term disability or injury for basic mobility and transportation needs. Wheelchairs in the higher price range are more commonly used by people with long-term disabilities.
A standard manual wheelchair with basic elements typically includes a seat and back, four wheels (two small at the front, two large at the back), and removable, swingaway foot rests.
Using a manual wheelchair can place additional stress on the upper body of the user, if self-propelled. While the exercise is a positive, repetitive motion can lead to injury. This is one factor to consider when choosing between a manual wheelchair or a power chair.
Manual or self-propelled wheelchairs
Manual, self-propelled wheelchairs are propelled by the occupant. The occupant pushes on hand rims, circular tubing which attaches to the outside of the large rear wheels. The rear wheels are typically 20-26 inches in average diameter and resemble bicycle wheels. Depending on the strength and skill of the occupant, manual wheelchairs can be quite mobile and smoothly move in any direction as needed. For example, a skilled operator can shift their weight onto the back wheels to tilt the chair and climb down curbs.
In order to self-propel a standard manual wheelchair, the occupant must have sufficient upper body function to move the chair safely. These chairs typically weigh 35 pounds or more.
Heavy duty manual wheelchairs with a reinforced frame can accommodate weight capacities in the 250 to 600 pounds range, depending on the brand and frame design.
For optimal independence of movement with minimal effort, many people prefer lightweight manual wheelchairs. This design is especially recommended for occupants unable to safely self-propel a standard manual wheelchair. A lightweight wheelchair typically ranges from 28-34 pounds.
Highly active individuals may prefer an ultralight wheelchair, which can weigh as little as 14 pounds. These models are most maneuverable, durable, and easy to transport.
These models are designed to be propelled by a caregiver, who maneuvers the wheelchair using handles on the back of the seat. To accommodate the nature of use, the back wheels on these chairs are typically rimless smaller than the wheels on standard chairs. These chairs are also used as transfer chairs to safely, comfortable move patients.
Manual wheelchairs are ideal for individuals who need a wheelchair on a temporary basis due to an injury such as a sprained ankle or broken leg. As the injury is only temporary, there is no need to invest in an expensive model or a heavy-duty electric-powered wheelchair.
Manual wheelchairs are a cost-effective, portable alternative to heavier power chairs.
When it comes to manual wheelchairs, there are three basic designs – self-propel, attendant-propel and wheelbase. Manual wheelchairs require people to move them, either independently or by an attendant. Many manual chairs can be folded wheelchairs for storage or movement into a vehicle.
Your mobility needs will determine the type of wheelchair being recommended for you by either a physiotherapist or occupational therapist or in the case of recovery from surgery, your doctor. If you need the wheelchair for occasional use, solely for travel to and from destinations, solely at school or work, only for use in an exercise program, or for social, sports and recreational purposes.you may consider a standard manual wheelchair on a rental basis.
Manual wheelchairs fall into five categories.
Standard Manual Wheelchair: Standard wheelchairs weighing more than 38 pounds and can include either Fixed or Swingaway Footrests and Fixed or Removable Arms. This type of wheelchair is most suitable for users who are not consistently independently mobile. This type requires minimal adjustments to accommodate postural and mobility requirements.
Lightweight Standard Manual Wheelchair: Lightweight wheelchairs in the 25 to 38 pound range including Swingaway Footrests and Removable Arms for active users who are independently mobile and require some adjustments to accommodate postural and mobility requirements.
Lightweight Performance Manual Wheelchair: Lightweight wheelchairs in the 25 to 38 pound range which include adjustability to the center of gravity, Removable Armrests, Quick Release Axles, Footrests and Anti-Tippers for very active users. This category of wheelchair is self-propelled and highly customizable.
High Performance Rigid Manual Wheelchair: Ultra Light rigid frame wheelchairs less than 25 pounds that include adjustability to the center of gravity, Removable Armrests, Quick Release Axles, Footrests and Anti-Tippers. These are non-folding rigid wheelchairs for very active users as well.
Manual Dynamic Tilt Wheelchair: Manual Dynamic Tilt wheelchairs which include Removable Adjustable Height Arms, Swingaway Footrests, Anti-Tippers and Quick Release Axles. These are also non-folding rigid wheelchairs. This category of wheelchairs are for users who require tilting seat frame because of inability to weight shift or cannot maintain an upright posture through the use of seating components alone.
In addition to manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs are propelled by an in-line motor which makes it easier than ever to move with comfort and safety. Power wheelchairs fall into three categories.
Type 1: Basic Power Wheelchair for use on hard, flat surfaces and does not require much personalization or high-end electronics. Most are foldable for easy transportation. Basic features include Swingaway Footrests, Removable Height Adjustable Armrests, and Proportional Joystick. Generally, this type of power wheelchair is most suitable for hard, flat surfaces, not uneven terrain. They are primarily for users who require minimal adjustments to support independent mobility.
Type 2: Power Wheelchair which allows for major modifications, customization to electronics and other adaptive accessories, special controls and switch options, and suitable for use on most surfaces. They are primarily for users who requires postural support, modifications to electronics, and other specific options to support independent mobility.
Type 3: Power Wheelchair for users who require extreme modifications, specialty controls, customization to electronics and current or future need of power recline and/or power tilt. Base funding includes joystick only. A separate seating package will be chosen at time of purchase. This type of wheelchair is suitable for use on most surfaces and primarily for users who require continual changes in postural support, customizations to electronics and other specific options to support independent mobility.
Add-On Elevation to Power Wheelchairs
New to the market is the Pride iLevel® Power Chair from Quantum Rehab® that offers safe eye-level use at the speed of life. iLevel's breakthrough functionality and stability enhances independence and quality of life. iLevel improves access and encourages social interaction with the unique elevation feature (up to 10 inches) in 16 seconds at comfortable walking speed (up to 3.5 mph).
Power Add-On Device
Another option to a power wheelchair is a Power Add-On Device for a manual wheelchair. The Invacare eMotion Power Add On can be added to many brands of manual wheelchairs. This equipment is ideal for individuals who do not anticipate requiring the use of a power wheelchair for their long-term mobility requirements.
Speaking of weight, this is your second important factor to consider. Keep in mind that the lighter the chair, the easier it will be to move for both the person in the chair and the person pushing it. If the chair is going to be transported often via a vehicle, you might want to also consider this factor for the purpose of ease for lifting it in and out of the car.
The Motion Composite Helio Wheelchair is an excellent choice for lightweight yet sturdy manual wheelchairs in the “performance” class. Look closely.
Every detail of the Helio C2 is optimized to help you go farther, from materials to frame to componentry. The manufacturers have ratcheted up performance and reduced weight so the user expends less energy propelling. As a result, you improve mobility while reducing the risk of chronic joint and shoulder injuries.
The Helio C2’s innovative engineering starts with its one-piece side frame and symmetrical crossbrace. This revolutionary design reduces weight and distibutes forces equally through the frame. This results in superior propulsion efficiency and energy transform. A vertical axle plate further sheds weight and reduces wheel flex to drive energy efficiency.
Whether you’re propelling the Helio C2 or stowing it for transportation, you enjoy unprecedented freedom. The Helio C2 is everything a folding wheelchair should be.
This model is changing how people think about wheelchairs. With a transport weight of just 12 pounds (5.4 kgs), Helio C2 is by far the lightest model in its category.
But since lightweight chairs are generally made from either carbon fibre or titanium, the drawback can be the price. So, the lighter the chair, the more expensive the purchase. However, there are a range of assistance programs to help cover or offset the cost of a wheelchair as a medical device.
For the purposes of transportation, it’s important to note that most wheelchairs do fold up in a scissor-like fashion for easier, condensed storage. However, there are designs that vary in regard to multiple folding parts for providing a range of ways that can make storage more simplified and easy.
If storage isn’t an important factor or you do not require specialized seating, just opt for your standard folding design to keep your cost as low as possible.
When you’re purchasing a wheelchair for the first time, it’s important not to simply grab the first one you see. It’s a purchase that needs careful thought and consideration, depending on the person and the situation. Do your research beforehand. Consider all your factors involved, such as the degree of mobility and independence desired, the weight and price range of your budget, along with the desired storage. Determine what your priorities and long-term mobility needs are so that you can narrow down your selection.
Visit us in-store, browse our online catalog or give us a call at 905-471-5224 ext. 23. We’ll go over your options so that you can feel confident in choosing the right chair for your needs.