Guide to the best Manual Wheelchairs, Power Wheelchairs & Mobility Scooters of 2017
Manual Wheelchair Buyer’s Guide
Buying the right wheelchair can be a challenging task, and there are many things that need to be considered in order to choose the right chair. There are many different types of wheelchairs in the market therefore it is important to know exactly what you are looking for.
Manual wheelchairs are usually operated by the user of the chair and require a significant upper body strength. The transport wheelchairs are also usually manual and can be used by a caregiver or a family member. Manual wheelchairs are usually easy to set up and operate and they are easy to maneuver and transport. Also, manual chairs are much less expensive then power wheelchairs.
When purchasing a manual wheelchair it is important to properly assess you physical abilities, environment and personal preferences. It is also a good idea to consult a physical therapist or an occupational therapist before purchasing a wheelchair to make your daily life easier.
Key considerations before buying a manual wheelchair
In order to choose the right wheelchair for you, there are several things you need to consider. It is important to take into account your personal needs, environment and your daily activities. Questions to ask before buying a wheelchair:
- What size chair do you need?
- How much can you afford to spend?
- Where will you use the chair?
- Do you need to transport your chair
- Do you need the chair to be foldable?
Types of manual wheelchairs
The main types of wheelchairs, according to United Spinal Association of America, are:
- Usually heavy
- Comes in a few sizes and is not adjustable
- Meant for indoor use, mostly for transport
- Lighter than standard wheelchair
- Available in several sizes and can be adjusted
- Usually not heavier than 20-30 lbs
- Customizable and provides postural support
- Equipped with release wheels
- Easy to push
- Can be used for patients up to 350 lbs of weight
- Used for patients with severe spasticity
- Wheelchair is usually heavy
- Enables to change orientation of the user
- Adjustable to specific needs
Ultra lightweight wheelchairs can be as light as 14 pounds and they usually come in two different models- rigid and folding. These chairs are perfect for a full-time user who require the most independence. Since these chairs are light, they are easy to maneuver and operate. The frame is usually made of Aluminum or Titanium.
Rigid frame manual wheelchairs are usually sturdy and have a square rigid frame. These chairs are not foldable, but they usually have a foldable backrest which allows the chair to be stored or transported. These chairs are perfect for someone needing a durable and strong, but light chair. The folding frame ultralight wheelchairs can be easily folded when not in use, like for storing or transportation. This is the most popular type of wheelchair in the market due to its light weight, high versatility and comfort.
Heavy duty wheelchairs are specially designed to withhold up to 350-400 lbs of weight. These wheelchairs are usually much heavier and sturdier than standard ones. When choosing a heavy weight wheelchair, make sure that it allows 1 to 2 inches of space in both sides to the body. Also, it is important to have a good back support in the right height to promote shoulder mobility and decrease back pain. Many other accessories, like cushions, can be added to these chairs to provide maximum comfort.
Standing wheelchair is a new concept that will allow the user to stand, lie flat, sit and recline. These chairs offer a wide variety of movements and are specially designed for paraplegic or quadriplegic patients, and others who are suffering from very limited ability to move. Standing wheelchairs give the advantage of improved circulation, reduction in pressure sores, proper urinary drainage. Before purchasing the chair, it is advised to consult a specialist for the right measurements to ensure that you are getting the chair that meets all of your needs.
Manual wheelchair resources
Manual wheelchairs can be equipped with several other resources, including:
- Power add-on systems
- Wheelchair tandems
- Seating systems
- Cushions and backs
The power add-on systems are a special device that can be added to a regular manual wheelchair to assist with the movement. These systems are mostly meant to assist the caregiver to push the chair, however there are also systems that allow the user to give more control of the wheelchair. There are several systems available in the market for pushing and breaking the chair, that can be added to the handlebar of the chair. Other systems will allow you to convert for a manual use. Some systems are used as a torque multiplier and allow you to reduce effort required to propel the wheelchair.
Wheelchair bicycle tandems are a perfect tool to for recreation. With this device you will be able to go anywhere and enjoy cycling outdoors.
Manual wheelchair seating systems are an important tool to accommodate the changing needs of every patient. These systems can help to adjust the chair when the patient is growing or their seating needs are changing. These systems are available for chairs with 10” to 16” width and 8” to 20” depth. Seating systems are a must-have for patients who require bed sore prophylaxis.
There are many different wheelchair accessories that will help you to equip your chair for your daily needs. Back cushions, bags, gloves, cup holders and many other accessories are widely available. After purchasing your perfect chair, you can equip with all the necessary things you require, since most of the accessories come in standardized sizes.
Power wheelchair buyers guide
Power wheelchairs are technologically very advanced wheelchairs with many components. These chairs are perfect for people who are not able to propel a manual wheelchair, or if you need to reduce the strain on your shoulders and arms. There are many factors that need to be considered before buying a power wheelchair, like lifestyle and personal needs, environment of use and whether the chair will need to be transported.
There are several types of power wheelchairs to choose from, however, all of the wheelchairs should be equipped with the following features:
- Foot support positioning
- Arm support adjustment
- Joystick positioning
- Upholstery replacement
Power wheelchairs are mainly divided into two types: scooters and powered wheelchairs.
Scooters are usually three or four-wheel chairs with a pedestal that has a mounted seat on it. The main difference between a scooter and a powered wheelchair is the way it is steered. Scooters have handlebars that are held by the user and they can be mechanically steered. Four wheel scooters usually have the front wheels connected together. The speed of a scooter is usually controlled by a lever which is attached to the handlebars. Scooters definitely require more hand mobility, as well as trunk stability. This device is usually used by people who can walk, but have limited abilities to walk for a distance. The seat of most of scoters can usually be rotated and elevated. The wheelbase of the scooter is usually longer and provides more stability.
Power wheelchairs are usually equipped with a power base with a motor, battery and wheels, and a system that is mounted on top of the base. These chairs are mostly controlled by a joystick which is operated by hand, but depending on the mobility of the user, different options are also available. These chairs have a variety of drive wheel types:
- Front wheel drive
- Mid-wheel drive
- Rear-wheel drive
Power wheelchairs are usually very heavy and hard to transport, therefore transportation needs have to be considered. Most users with the power chair require a specially modified van or mini wan as their personal vehicle. Power chairs specifically meant for traveling usually have easier to remove batteries, they have smaller wheels and can be quickly folded. These chairs resemble a manual wheelchair with an add-on power system, however the motor and controller is usually mounted to the frame. Travel power wheelchairs are usually not as durable as standard one’s, therefore the need for transportation has to be considered.
The location of the drive wheels is important consideration since it impacts how the wheelchair handles and how it is steered. In front wheel drive chairs the mass of the chair is located behind the drive wheels. For this reason, when the wheelchair slows down, it has a tendency to turn around in backwards position. These chairs have a better traction going downhill, but they can have problems going uphill on a slippery surface. Front wheel chairs usually have larger drive wheels and smaller ones in the rear.
Rear wheel drive wheelchairs usually have larger wheels in the rear. The rear-drive wheelchair, similarly as the front drive wheelchair has a tendency to turn around when going backwards. However, these chairs have a better traction when going uphill.
Mid wheel drive chairs were introduced in the 1990s’ and the mass of the chair is centered under the user’s center of mass. These chairs usually have six wheels, from which two are centrally located drive wheels, a pair of casters and a pair of anti-tipping wheels. These chairs have a better traction then both front and rear wheel drive wheelchairs. They are easier to maneuver in small spaces.
Other types of power wheelchairs
Besides the previously mentioned types of power wheelchairs, there are also several other different variations for these chairs. Standing Power Wheelchair allow its user to raise in an upright position. This chair allows the user to stand, lie, tilt, sit and recline. This is definitely something that an active person will need.
Power wheelchairs also come in heavy duty designs, which are meant for users that weight up to 650 lbs. These chairs usually have a higher battery capacity and they come in different types of driving configurations.
Power wheelchair seating systems
Power wheelchair seating systems are specially designed to accommodate the patient’s growth and functional needs. These systems come in variety of sizes and allow room for changing needs. It allows any power wheelchair to be adjusted for individual needs.
Steps to take before buying a wheelchair
There are several things to be considered before purchasing a wheelchair. First of all, the medical history and physical exam by a professional has to be carried out. The information will allow to address the medical issues of the chair’s user.
Before purchasing any wheelchair, it is best to test drive the device, especially if you are investing a lot of money into the chair. A good wheelchair will allow you to securely and comfortably move in your environment and let you feel comfortable. Also, it is a good idea to allow a specialist to assess your home before choosing a wheelchair. There are several things that might need to be changed to allow you extra mobility. In some cases, you might not need a specific wheelchair to help you become more mobile, but you might need to make some changes in your home. Remember that there is always an option to make a wheelchair specially for you. Many companies provide the service of custom built wheelchairs to make your life more mobile and easy.