Approximately 3.3 million individuals in the U.S. alone rely on wheelchairs to meet their mobility needs, with an additional two million first-time wheelchair users projected for each coming year. Millions more who could benefit from this mobility aid either don’t have one or struggle with the wrong selection for their needs.
If you find yourself shopping for your first wheelchair, you may wonder how to choose the most helpful model for your particular disability, body type, and everyday tasks. Get your search off to the right start by thinking about the following four important considerations for wheelchair users.
1. Manual Versus Power
Both manual and power wheelchairs can prove equally useful, depending on your specific needs and limitations. Most individuals who have sufficient upper body strength and manual dexterity can push themselves along in a manual wheelchair. Handles attached to the seatback also make it easy for someone else to push your wheelchair.
Power wheelchairs usually make a wise choice for individuals who cannot use their arms or hands well enough to self-propel a manual model (or who lack ready access to assistance.) These chairs include a lead-acid battery, electric motor, and controllers that can respond to hand, head, or eye motions.
2. Size and Weight
A standard manual wheelchair comes in a few different seat width options, as well as a choice of seat depth. For most users, the right fit in a wheelchair will correspond to a comfortable fit in an ordinary chair, with the upper body upright and arms and thighs perpendicular to the floor.
To determine whether your wheelchair will provide this ergonomic fit for your body, you’ll need to know a few vital measurements. In addition to seat size, you need to know your ideal back height, armrest height, and floor-to-seat height. You must also ensure that your weight doesn’t exceed the wheelchair’s maximum safe limit.
3. Functionality and Practicality
Standard manual wheelchairs make an excellent all-purpose choice for users who don’t require a power wheelchair. You can equip your wheelchair with such helpful accessories as a tray, a cup holder, a seatback pocket, and swing-away or elevating leg rests. More deluxe models may include some such features as standard options.
Power wheelchairs tend to feature heavier, bulkier designs than manual wheelchairs. While the convenience of electric power removes any physical strain from the user, the extra bulk can make the wheelchair awkward to transport. However, if you need to travel long distances by wheelchair, a power model may prove the only practical option.
On the other end of the scale, individuals who need an occasional wheelchair for light use may want to choose a transport chair. This type of manual wheelchair offers lighter weight and easier portability than even a standard manual wheelchair can provide. However, an attendant must use the seatback handles to propel it.
Bear in mind that the same complexity that gives power wheelchairs their extra abilities also increases the risk for malfunctions and mechanical breakdowns. Lead-acid batteries will also lose their ability to hold a charge eventually. These issues can increase the money you must set aside for ongoing maintenance and repairs.
The comfort you experience from your new wheelchair will depend partly on your selection of the right size and partly on the available options for customizing the fit. For instance, if you suffer from swelling in your legs or feet, your doctor may prescribe a wheelchair with elevating leg rests that you can lock into the elevated position.
A wheelchair that offers multiple ergonomic options can help you maintain a comfortable posture and reduce your risk for pressure sores by allowing you to shift your position from time to time. A wheelchair with a reclining backrest, for example, can help you redistribute your weight and give your back some extra support. Corner Home Medical offers a variety of wheelchair types, sizes, and options to suit your needs and preferences. Take a moment to browse our wheelchairs available for online purchase, or visit any of our locations in person.