Wheelchair Buyers Guide
For people who have lived with a disability for a while, careful consideration of their mobility needs is key to their independence. It is possible that certain people would find different mobility solutions for different environments – a standard wheelchair for the home and maybe a electric wheelchair for when they are out about at work, shopping or visiting friends or family.
Mobility equipment options include:
- Manual wheelchair – self-propelled
- Power Assist Devices – manual wheelchairs that have an added device to assist the user get around more efficiently and with less effort.
- Scooters – three or four wheeled vehicles with tiller steering.
- Power Wheelchairs – Electric power wheelchairs can have front, mid or rear wheel drive options and are typically controlled with a joystick. Electric wheelchairs come with a variety of options including captain seats, elevation capabilities, removable arm and foot rests.
It is important to note that the best choice of mobility device is one that enables you to go where you want and when you want. Consider your mobility needs carefully, taking into account the environments and terrain where you will be using the wheelchair or scooter and what things you will be doing.
Certain users will need the wheelchair constantly or for long periods of time, both in and out of the home. Other users may only need the specific mobility device when they have a longer travel period or distance to cover. In certain cases a user may require only a light weight electric wheelchair for going out, as opposed to a full size wheelchair more commonly selected by those who are in need of the extra comfort, support, maneuverability and power. Ultimately, you may even come to the conclusion that you are best suited to having a couple of options to assist your mobility needs in different environments.
To help you make the right informed decision, you need to consider using the wheelchair in your specific environments such as your home, work, and for social and shopping activities.
Wheelchair clearance – Can it get over all thresholds in the house.
Wheelchair seat height – Is it high enough to allow you to get on and off your bed.
Arm and foot plates – Removable arm/foot plates enable easier transition to/from your bed or car?
Wheelchair width – Can it fit through your doorways?
Wheelchair usage – Shopping malls, restaurants, office or outdoor parks, or all?
Can you lift it and store it in the trunk?
Can you walk from the trunk to the car door?
Does it need to be foldable?
How many hours usage will the battery need to last before recharge?
What is the likely distance you will need to do before recharge?
Would an adapted minivan be more suitable?
Styles of wheelchairs and scooters
Wheeled mobility devices are generally categorized into three main areas – Manual wheelchairs, Scooters and Power Wheelchairs ( Electric Wheelchairs ). It is not uncommon for long-term users to have more than one wheelchair in order to address different and possibly specific environmental needs.
Manual wheelchairs can be pushed by a person other than the wheelchair user or be self propelled by the wheelchair user typically through the grip rails around the outer wheels.
Scooters provide power transportation typically in a three wheelbase cart-type vehicles. Many users who experience milder forms of walking difficultly prefer this options when compared to wheelchair when looking to assist them in moving from A to B.
Scooters do however require a rear mounted lift on your car in order to transport them to the office, shopping mall etc… So one should consider this carefully if looing at this option as wheelchairs tend to be more versatile in this regard.
Electric Power Wheelchairs
Electric power wheelchairs are typically made up of two main parts, the power base (containing the wheels, motor(s), battery and controller element) and the seating component. Electric power wheelchairs are offered in a wide variety of configurations on both the base and the seating components in order to satisfy the users individual needs. The most notable variance in electric power wheelchair’s power bases is the position of the drive wheels giving the users the choice of either front, rear or mid-wheel drive wheel options, which have different characteristics on the mobility and maneuverability of the wheelchair, depending on whether your main use is going to be indoors on smooth surfaced such as at home, office or shopping mall or curbs, trails and general outdoor use.
As with power base options, electric power wheelchairs have many options and configurations available for the seating. Standard seating ( sometimes known as Captain Seat ) is comfortable almost automobile type seats which are common for general needs and comfort, but more complex seating is available in the form of power seating. The Power seating option can have various capabilities that may include recline, tilt, leg elevation and even a feature that enable the user to adopt a standing position while being support in the wheelchair seat and back.
Take your time in researching the different options available and select the option based on your individual needs both now and in the future. Use the Internet to do your in-depth research of what is available in terms of functionality, design and price and discuss your finding with your health care provider.
Other valuable resources include: