A Guide to Wheelchairs
Wheelchairs are relatively simple when compared to mobility scooters and powerchairs. However, there are still some important factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a wheelchair.
Different people will have different requirements for their wheelchair. For example, somebody who uses a wheelchair all the time will need a different type of wheelchair to someone who keeps one at home for occasional use by a relative.
Self propelling wheelchairs have large rear wheels and are usually pushed by the user although these wheelchairs can also be pushed by an attendant. Small rear wheeled models are called transit wheelchairs, and need to be pushed by an attendant.
As people are different sizes, wheelchairs are available with different seat widths and it is important that the seat is the right size, as the amount of comfort and support that the wheelchair can provide is dependant on it being the correct size.
Modern wheelchairs can be easily folded along the length of the wheelchair, so that the sides and handles are pushed together. Some wheelchairs have a folding back, which helps to reduce the size of the folded wheelchair. Most self propelled and transit models have quick release wheels which makes transportation easier. The leg rest can often also be removed. The heavier a wheelchair is, the heavier it will be to push, and the more difficult it will be to put in and take out of a car. Aluminium wheelchairs are lighter than steel wheelchairs but a little more expensive, but the weight difference when pushing or transporting the wheelchair will make up for the difference in price.
Some models of wheelchair are highly configurable, and the size and type of rear wheels, front castors and arm rests can be specified so that the wheelchair meets the exact needs of the user. Self propelled wheelchairs often have height adjustable rear wheels which means that the wheels can be fitted in the optimum position for the user. Having the wheels in the best position means that each time the user pushes, the wheelchair travels as far as possible. This is not as important for a self propelled wheelchair that will be pushed by an attendant.
Most wheelchairs have removable armrests so that transferring to and from the wheelchair is much easier. Some wheelchairs also have height adjustable armrests so that the most comfortable and supportive position can be easily found. Adjustable leg rests are found on most models, and also ensure that the user is in the most comfortable position. Anti tip wheels are fitted as standard on some wheelchairs and provide extra security when going over obstacles such as curbs.
A motor is available that will turn most traditional wheelchairs into an attendant controlled powerchair. This can be of real benefit if the terrain is rough or hilly. Because the motor does most of the work, the attendant doesn't have to push as hard. The wheelchair power pack has a range of around 10 miles, and is ideal for both long and short journeys. If required, the power pack can be removed quickly and easily, and transferred to a different wheelchair.
A wheelchair can provide health benefits and can help to bring back or maintain independence, and is be easy to operate and transport.
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