The humble wheelchair has come a long way over the years and nowadays there are many different types available to suit the needs of everyone. This means that your perfect wheelchair is out there but finding it can sometimes seem difficult. This guide aims to help you come to a decision that is right for you, but for advice on more specialist needs we do recommend that you consult your doctor before making your purchase.
Please feel free to contact us for further guidance on 01323 444861, or of course visit a member of our friendly and professional team in store. Free home assessments are available for more specialist wheelchairs.
Who will be pushing your chair?
The first and foremost thing to consider is who is going to be pushing your wheelchair the majority of the time. If you are physically able and prefer to manoeuvre your wheelchair yourself, then our lightweight self-propelled manual wheelchairs would be ideal for you. Self-propelled manual wheelchairs have been specifically designed to make self-propelling and manoeuvring easy and practical with large rear wheels and lightweight frames. These models would suit day to day activities and be perfect for someone who struggles with mobility but can push the chair themselves without trouble.
If propelling your wheelchair yourself is going to be an issue for you, we offer several alternatives. Attendant-propelled manual wheelchairs feature smaller rear wheels to make pushing and manoeuvring the chair easier for the attendant. For added assistance, the addition of a power pack turns your manual wheelchair into an electric wheelchair. You can easily attach the power pack yourself and the attendant simply needs to walk behind the chair with their thumb on the control button and the chair will move forward itself.
For those who want total independence but struggle to propel themselves, then we would recommend you consider a powerchair. These move entirely via electricity and are controlled by a control pad or joystick on the armrest of the chair. They are designed with stability and durability in mind and deliver on high performance thanks to powerful motors and advanced built in technology.
Where will you use your chair?
It’s also important to consider where you plan to use your wheelchair. If you will be using it outdoors a lot of the time, you will need to consider kerbs. Larger rear wheels will make it easier to navigate up and down kerbs than smaller wheels because the drop will not be so great and the ride will feel smoother and more stable. Powerchairs are also designed to adapt to kerbs and more challenging terrain due to them being weightier and more robust. Their wheels tend to be thicker and better suited to the outdoors.
Why will you use your chair?
When considering which wheelchair is best for you, you will need to think about the reasons why you need a wheelchair. Perhaps you require a chair that you can easily transport for days out or simply because you tend to travel a lot. If so, a lightweight manual wheelchair would be best suited to you as these are easy to lift into a car as well as easy to dismantle and reassemble. Although, if you require a chair that can get you from A to B travelling via pavements, perhaps to visit friends or go shopping, powerchairs would make for a smooth and stable ride thanks to their outdoor adaptability.
Getting the size of your wheelchair right is essential, therefore before you make your purchase you will need to consider the user weight, seat width and backrest/armrest heights.
The maximum user weight of every wheelchair can be found clearly in the product description. This weight must never be exceeded else you will invalidate your warranty and can lead to your wheelchair becoming dangerous. Looking at a heavier duty wheelchair may be something you will need to take into consideration depending on your weight.
Your weight will also play a part in the seat width of your wheelchair. Your weight should be evenly distributed over the seat for optimal comfort, and therefore it’s essential that you purchase a wheelchair with the most suitable seat size for you. If the seat is too narrow you run the risk of pressure sores forming, but if the seat is too wide you might find yourself leaning more to one side which is not good for your posture or back support.
You should also take into consideration the height of the backrest and the armrest of your wheelchair. Though the backrest heights of most standard manual wheelchairs are fixed, the amount of padding tends to vary with the price, make and model. Headrests can be purchased separately and added to your many wheelchairs, which would give your head additional support. The height of your armrests should not be so high that your shoulders are hunched but not be so low that you end up leaning to one side; they should support your arms comfortably. Free home assessments are available for more specialist wheelchairs.
When deciding which wheelchair to buy, there are some features to consider such as the size and type of the wheels, the type of footplates and armrests as well as the brakes. Firstly, if you are planning on propelling your wheelchair yourself, the larger the wheels the better, as this will lower the effort required to propel the chair forward. Shock absorption and smoothness of the ride may also be something you take into consideration. Pneumatic tyres will provide you with better shock absorption while solid rubber tyres are puncture proof, both of which will benefit those who tend to travel outdoors often, however solid rubber tyres will provide a slightly harder ride compared to the pneumatic.
Another feature to bear in mind is the type of footplate your wheelchair has. Swing away footplates will make moving from the chair easier as you don’t need to step over the plates. If you plan to travel and take your wheelchair with you, we would recommend you invest in a wheelchair with detachable footplates for ease of transportation. As well as footplates, it’s also important to consider the type of armrest you want your wheelchair to have as these will provide you with essential support. Again, we would recommend you consider a wheelchair with detachable armrests if you plan to transport your chair. We do also supply swing up arms which pivot at the back if you would prefer to not have to reassemble or find somewhere to store your armrests during transportation.
The majority of our wheelchairs will feature manual brakes near the rear tyres, though some attendant propelled chairs will have brakes fitted near the pushing handles to give greater control to the attendant. This may be something to consider if you yourself will not be propelling your wheelchair.
Before you make your purchase, we feel you should know how to store your wheelchair so that you can plan this in advance. Simply by pulling up on the seat, the majority of our wheelchairs will fold upwards and can then be stored anywhere dry. However, most wheelchairs also allow you to detach certain features such as footrests and armrests to make for even easier storing.
To tailor your wheelchair specifically to you, we have a whole range of accessories to improve your comfort and make your life easier. We supply storage bags and walking stick holders which can easily be attached to your wheelchair as well as a wide variety of weather protection garments for when you use your wheelchair in the rain or the cold, such as waterproof Macintoshes and fleece blankets. We also provide a huge choice of wheelchair cushions suitable for low risk to high risk users. The cushions will help protect you from developing pressure sores caused by sitting down in your chair for long periods of time and these are made from either memory foam, a gel and foam combination or are air based. We would recommend consulting your doctor if you feel you may be a medium or high risk user before purchasing a cushion for your wheelchair.