How to Choose the Right Wheelchair?

By Arpita Bhawal

Buying a wheelchair is as important and essential to the life of a wheelchair user or patient is as would be for a person buying a mattress for the bed. Since wheelchair users spend 8-10 hours on an average in the wheelchair, they need to ensure that it is built for them – and for their purpose, without compromising on their posture, physical strength, skin condition, health condition, purpose, and body type.

Why is it important? Not having the right wheelchair can cause inverse recovery for the user or the patient. Since there are so many factors that can get affected or need to be taken into consideration, it is best to take time to choose the right wheelchair. Just as not two people are the same, nor are their needs or bodies. The right wheelchair is therefore, a critical factor in the mental and physical progress of a user.

Some important points to remember: 

  • Choosing the category of the wheelchair correctly is important because based on what the user or the patient chooses, we can determine how long it will be comfortable and functional without any adverse effects. For example, Active Wheelchairs support an active lifestyle so they are ultra-light while Standard Wheelchairs are for occasional use so they are rigid, durable and long-lasting, and meant only for basic seating. 

 

  • Do a thorough research before buying a wheelchair for anyone. Whether it has power to move, if it is self-propelled or needs an attendant’s support, or will it be great to build upper body strength and muscle?


  • Consider the portability and folding aspect of the wheelchair so that you know the user can tuck it away in a corner when not in use. The weight is the most important factor here as the lighter it is, easier it is to folder and put away. 


  • If you want total freedom of movement, mobility, manoeuvrability, and thus a fully powered wheelchair, then you would want to also arrange for a larger accessible vehicle to help you take the wheelchair around with you. If you have to climb over ramps or lifts, this could be cumbersome so you need to know in advance where you would go with it.  


  • You should have some idea about where you will be using the wheelchair and for what purpose. Would it be a flat and smooth surface, or would it be outdoors, on the streets or in the garden? The terrain is very important because the build of the wheelchair will determine if you can easily use it on the said surface, and manoeuvre it around easily, and not have an accident by falling off it. Here, the size and grip of the wheels will come into play.


  • The seat height is very important and you have to look into that as well. Transferring in and out of the wheelchair has to be incident free and effortless for the user, and any difficulty to perform any action should warn you of the seat height not being equal to the height of destinations that you commonly transfer to like your bed, sofa, dining chair, toilet seat, etc. The seat position has to be over the wheelchair’s centre of gravity – just in front of the wheelchair’s rear wheels.


  • The overall comfort of seating, posturing and stability is crucial to the wheelchair user so the choice of wheelchair should heavily depend on a natural pelvic position when seated in it. In a sitting position, the natural curves of the back and neck should be supported; and the shoulders, pelvis and knees should ideally be level. This could, however, depend on the current state of physicality of the user. 


  • Consider the body size for the wheelchair because it has to fit your frame and adjust to your position – be it the backrest, foot rest or other features, they all need to fit into your requirement. A wheelchair user who doesn’t fit into the chair can suffer gravely from various worsening health conditions all related to posture, pressure, skin conditions, ulcers, etc. 


If you are looking for a wheelchair for yourself or for another user, remember that you would buy only what fits you and your requirements, and your lifestyle choices. Don’t compromise because the wheelchair is an important extension of the body for the user, and aids greatly to build confidence, recover safely, and provide mobility.

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