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Wheelchair Buyers Guide

It doesn't have to be difficult when you are faced with choosing a wheelchair. Here we have noted the basic features of a wheelchair as a guide to choosing the right wheelchair for your needs. Some wheelchairs such as sports or ultra light wheelchairs may have different measurements and specifications.

Wheelchair types

You will find two main types of manual wheelchairs in todays market:

1. Self-Propel Wheelchairs - This type of wheelchair is user propelled but can also be pushed by someone else (Transit wheelchair). They also can be bought with various wheelchair accessories such as attendant brakes.

2. Transit Wheelchairs - A wheelchair that is pushed by a third party - the wheelchair can not be moved by the wheelchair user as the wheels are inaccessible to the person sat in the wheelchair..

Wheelchair Weight

When choosing a wheelchair the weight of the wheelchair itself has to be considered. While a lightweight wheelchair is beneficial for wheelchair users that need no attendance or support from others you need to consider the type of terrain they will be used in, not just the best solution for the user.

If the wheelchair user is out and about a lot, then in some cases a heavier wheelchair may be a better choice. A lightweight wheelchair is easier to maneuver, carry and easier to pick up for stowing away in a car boot.

Wheelchair Seating Capacity

When choosing a wheelchair the weight of the wheelchair user plays a major role. Depending on the users weight specific wheelchairs can be bought, a standard wheelchair can carry up to approximately 18 stone (135Kg). If the wheelchair user needs a stronger or heavy duty wheelchair then a Bariatric wheelchair may be the best solution, bariatric wheelchairs can carry up to 70 stone (440Kg) and more.

The weight of the user should be considered over a period of time as it is worth considering buying a wheelchair that is ready for heavier weights in the future.

Wheelchair Seat Size

The standard wheelchair cushion has a width of 18inches, but you can buy other sizes. The depth or thickness of a standard cushion varies from 5 to 6cm. If you need a thicker or thinner base then custom wheelchair cushions can be bought.

To establish what size wheelchair cushion you will need carry out the following; sit on a tape measure and measure the size from hip to hip, add a couple of centimeters on the overral size and you have your seat width. The added measurement is for comfort when moving, or getting in and out of the wheelchair.

Wheelchair Seat Height

The seat height can be determind by measuring the wheelchair user whilst sitting straight, the knees should be bent at a 90 degree angle. The measurement itself is taken from the heel to the bend in the knee. Preferably when taking measurements the user should sit on a flat solid surface, this ensures that all measurements are correct and not influenced.

After you have the basic measurement the depth of the seat cushion needs be added to the height and then a couple of centimetres for comfort and foot clearance.

Wheelchair Arm Rests

There are 4 main types of wheelchair arm rests:

  1. Fixed or Permanent - These can not be removed from the wheelchair at all, they are a permanent fixture
  2. Adjustable - The height can be adjusted to individual wheelchair users
  3. Removable - As the name says, the armrest can be fully removed from the wheelchair frame
  4. Flip Back - The flip back arm rests are similar to the removeable type, they can be moved out of the way when not in use or when the user wishes to sit down or get out of the wheelchair

Arm rests also come in two different lengths:

  1. Full Normal length - a standard wheelchair has these type of armrests fitted
  2. Desk The desk type armrests allow the wheelchair to be positioned closer to tables or desks

Wheelchair Foot Rests

Wheelchair legrests allow the wheelchair user to lift their legs and position them. Footrests are normally height adjustable to provide proper leg support.Leg rests can be bought as 'swing away' and detachable, either letting the user move them out of the way when getting in or out of the wheelchair or removing them completely.

Both footrests and legrests are manufactured for both types of wheelchairs, either the lightweight version in aluminium or the heavy duty or standard version in steel.