Wheelchair Buying Guide

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

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.

Wheelchair Seating

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:

Defining Disability

Disability – Medical or Social Definition?

Generally speaking, there are two most commonly used ways to derive the definition of disability in today world are known as the medical and social models respectively.

The World Health Organization (WHO) created the medical model for defining disability in the early 1980’s and the definitions of this model leaned towards the ease of categorization, within the medical sector. This medical model essentially compartmentalizes disability into three distinct definition areas namely, impairment, disability and handicap.

Medical Model for Defining Disability

Impairment is defined as an abnormality or loss in the structure or function;
Disability is defined as an inability to perform a function or activity within the normal capabilities of a human, specifically due to the individual’s impairment;
Handicap is defined as an inability to perform normal social activities due specifically to an impairment or disability;

Social Model for Defining Disability

The social model is for many, the preferred framework in defining the true effects of an individual’s disability or impairment.

The social model examines how the lives of disabled people are affected by the constraints that society imposes upon them. It is widely accepted that if these environmental and social constraints were lifted, the possibility of disabled people having a more balanced and normal life, would be greatly enhanced. If this can be achieved, it is likely the challenges and hardships in living with a disability would be significantly diminished. The social model in essence focuses on the environmental, economic and social constraints as opposed to the medical model, which focuses more towards the actual physical or mental attributes of the disability or impairment.

Disability affects people across all cultural and social backgrounds. How disabled people are able to manage the affects of their disability depends greatly on their financial and economic circumstances. For example, a disabled person from a more affluent background is able to pay for home alterations, wheelchairs, mobility products and professional care if required, whereas disabled people on lower levels of income are simply not financially capable of doing the same.

True Physical Fitness

True Physical Fitness in the Modern World

In order to be truly healthy and lead an active life, it is crucial to ensure you achieve a reasonable level of physical fitness. Maintaining your body’s fitness can be challenging especially with the added pressures and stress of modern day work routines, but if you make time to exercise regularly and participate in various sporting activities, it is achievable and can be a great contributor to your over all welling both now and in the future.

True physical fitness is a measure of several different elements including respiratory efficiency, cardio endurance and muscular strength and flexibility. Other factors that influence ones physical fitness include chronological and physiological age, environment and genetic attributes. Taking all this into account, it is widely accepted that every person’s fitness levels and exercise routines can be as individual as they are, given the different health conditions, ages and physical builds that vary significantly from person to person.

Exercising or partaking in physical or sporting activities clearly serves as an effective method when looking to achieve physical fitness, but it can also be argued that following a well-balanced and nutritious diet is as important a factor in helping you reach your fitness goals. Ideally one should strive to create a balanced and systematic approach to physical fitness, combining a healthy and nutritious diet with daily exercise routines or sporting activities, in order to maintain fitness levels. Achieving and maintaining true physical fitness helps reduce ones risk and ultimately exposure to health issues such as obesity, heart disease and hypertension. Other benefits include increased energy levels, concentration, confidence and general wellness. 

In today’s modern world there is a variety of options available when it comes to exercising and starting on the road to fitness. Whether its joining a gym, taking a morning jog or working out on your elliptical trainer in the bedroom, all these activities can serve as solid foundations to achieving and maintaining your fitness goals going forward. As physical exercise is ultimately the main contributor to achieving weight loss and maintaining physical fitness, it is important to find ways to get engaged on a daily basis, including the use of fitness equipment such as elliptical trainers, exercise bicycles, multi-gyms and treadmills. Ultimately, each person’s journey into fitness is as individual as they are but one thing remains true; the journey to achieving true physical fitness is a lifestyle choice, performed on a daily basis but enjoyed for a lifetime.