What to Look for in a Wheelchair

The Big Picture
Wheel chairs an essential part of the everyday life of disabled people. It is also important that you get the right kind of wheel chair as a wrong one can be uncomfortable in the long run. However they do come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes and weights so it can be a difficult job to choose which wheelchair is right for you. This, however, does not need to be the case. Please follow this guide to find out what would be an ideal wheel chair for you.

Choosing the chair
The first thing to note is that there are two types of wheel chairs; Standard wheel chairs and transport wheel chairs. The main difference is in the type of wheel that the chair has. A standard wheel chair has two larger wheels at the back and then two smaller, caster like, wheels at the front. The primary use of these two larger wheels is to allow the user to propel him/her self. However it can also be propelled by a companion. Transport wheel chairs have four caster like wheels and can only be propelled by a companion.

Once you have chosen the type of wheel chair you want it is then important to look at the weights. Generally speaking a lighter person can use a lighter wheelchair. Lighter wheelchairs, however, tend to be more expensive. For heavier people (from 300 to 100 lbs) a heavy duty or Bariatric wheel chair can be necessary. These, however, are a lot heavier and therefore are much harder for the user to propel themselves.

It is then necessary to look at the seat size for the wheel chair. The seat size is measured in width and depth. The standard size is 18 inches wide by 16 inches deep but wheel chairs usually come in many different sizes. To get an accurate measurement lay a measuring tape down, sit on it and measure from hip to hip. Add a couple of inches on for extra comfort.

After the size of the seat is determined the height of the seat must also be worked out. If a seat is too low then the user’s feet will drag but if it is too high then the user could have a hard time exiting the wheel chair. If you want to know the exact figure for the seat height the sit upright and measure from the floor to the bend in the knee. Add a couple of inches for better comfort. However, roughly speaking, the seat heights are as follows;
âÂ?¢ If the user is 4′ 11″ and under the seat should be 14″ to 16″ high
âÂ?¢ If the user is 5′ to 5′ 4″ the seat should be 17″ to 18″ high
âÂ?¢ If the user is 5’4 and above the seat should be 19″ to 21″ high

Then it is important to decide the style of armrests. They are important to provide arm and shoulder support. There are four types; fixed, adjustable, removable and flip-back. There can also be a combination of types such as adjustable removable armrests. Fixed arm rests cannot be moved, adjustable arm rests can be set to a different height and Removable and flip-back armrests can be moved out of the users way. They also come in two lengths full and desk length. Desk length ones are shorter and allow the user to come closer to a table while full length ones allow for easier exiting of the wheel chair.

Finally it is important to choose between footrests and leg rests. Leg rests can be moved up and down in an elevated position and then locked in place in order to provide better leg support. They also include calf pads. Foot rests, however, cannot be adjusted and don’t have calf pads. Both leg rests and foot rests come in swing-away style which allows direct access to the wheel chair.

Shopping tips
It is recommended that you buy one of the top brands as they are more likely to give you better quality and value for money. These top brands include Invacare, Quickie, Breezy, Evermed, Guardian, Everest & Jennings, Otto Bock, TiSport, Colors, Halls Wheels, Top End, and others. If you are fairly sure what you want it is possible to order wheel chairs online and you will probably save money. However if you aren’t sure it is recommended that you go to a local dealer as they will be able to provide assistance.

If you follow these guidelines you should get a wheel chair that will be both comfortable and practical. Just remember to get all the measurements sorted out before deciding what wheel chair is best for you and then take time over deciding on the armrests and foot/leg rests.

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