How to Choose a Manual Wheelchair
Manual Wheelchairs are designed for people who are unable to walk at all or only able to walk very short distances. They allow people to remain independent in their own home, nursing home or retirement village and to access the local community. They come in two standard configurations: self-propel or transit.
Key considerations when choosing a wheelchair include:
The user’s needs, abilities and limitations
The carer’s needs, abilities and limitations
When deciding whether to buy a manual wheelchair there are a number of things to consider. At Life Mobility we have over 15 years’ experience in helping you choose the right model, at the right price, to suit your specific needs. Some of the key things to consider are:
Self-Propel or Transit?
a) Self-Propel: If you want to be able to wheel yourself around then you will need a self-propel wheelchair. They have the larger rear wheels - usually 24” (60cm), swivelling front castors and hand rims to push the wheels round with. They are also better for going over rougher terrain eg: over grass or up kerbs
b) Transit: If the user will always be pushed around in the wheelchair, then a transit model with the smaller rear wheels is more suitable. The standard size for these wheels is 12” (30cm). In addition to the standard manual brakes by the wheels, many transit models offer attendant brakes to assist the carer to reduce speed down hills or lock on for safety when required. Transit models are generally slightly lighter in weight for transporting and take up a little less room in the boot of the car. In some cases, where the user is not safe to try and propel themselves or touch the wheels in motion eg: dementia, the transit model is a more suitable option.
Which type of wheelchair do I need?
Lightweight: Our standard range of wheelchairs. Available in self-propel or transit models for general use. Total chair weights typically range between 12-16kg in this category. These weights can be reduced further by removing leg rests and in many cases the rear wheels for transporting. Economically priced to suit all budgets. Most models are available in either 16” (41cm) or 18” (46cm) seat widths - some have additional sizes.
Ultra Lightweight: These wheelchairs are made from very lightweight aluminium in both self-propel or transit models. Total chair weights typically range between 8-13kg in this category. These weights can be reduced further by removing leg rests and in many cases the rear wheels for transporting. Lighter to propel and much easier to transport. Most models are available in either 16” (41cm) or 18” (46cm) seat widths - some have additional sizes.
Heavy-Duty: These models are designed for larger or Bariatric users. They offer wider seat sizes from 20”-24” (51-61cm) and increased weight capacities from 160-325kg. Total chair weights typically range between 15-27kg in this category
Tilt and Recline: The tilt feature enables you to change the orientation of the user, without changing their hip to back angle thereby reducing pressure build-up. The recline feature increases the angle between the hip and back to allow the user to recline or ‘lie-back’ in the wheelchair. These chairs are widely used for all-day use and are fully adjustable to suit specific needs.
Transporting your wheelchair – the importance of weight
A key factor when choosing a manual wheelchair is the weight of the chair. The lighter the chair the easier it will be to propel and the easier it will be to transport in a car or other vehicle. Basic, economy, wheelchairs can be made from steel which is heavy to lift and propel. Aluminium chairs are much lighter. As a general rule, the lighter the wheelchair, the higher the cost.
You need to consider how and who will be transporting the wheelchair:
What weight can they safely lift?
How often will they need to transport the chair?
What vehicle is the wheelchair going in?
Will the chair need to be dismantled to fit into the vehicle?
Does the backrest fold down to reduce storage size?
How the user will get in and out of the manual wheelchair is also important. Choosing a model with swing away, removable, leg rests and flip-back arm rests may assist in this process where clear front access or side transfer is required.
What size manual wheelchair do I need?
It is important to ensure that you get the right size of wheelchair to suit you. As part of our assessment process we can measure the ideal width, depth and height of the seat as well as the height and angle of the leg rests and footplates. Some models offer adjustment to the seat width, seat depth, armrest height, backrest height and tension.
There are many other factors to consider. These include:
Your height and weight?
Is the weight capacity right for your size?
Does the seat fit you?
Are your legs comfortable?
Do you need a lower floor to seat height? If so you’ll need a model that offers height adjustment in the wheel axle. Also required for anyone wishing to foot-propel the chair (hemi-height setting).
Who will push the wheelchair?
If the user is not able to self-propel, is the wheelchair light enough, with the user in it, for the carer to push? (especially up an incline)
Does the carer need attendant brakes to safely control the wheelchair when going downhill?
How often you intend to use the wheelchair each day?
If you want to use the wheelchair all day (or more than 4 hours) then you need to ensure it will have the correct seating and backrest. This may require the use of a pressure care cushion – anything ranging from simple foam for basic comfort to an air or gel cushion for high-risk users or those requiring
Do you have medical issues with your shoulders, arms, wrists or hands? This may prevent you from safely self-propelling or cause further injury if you do.
Do you have arthritis?
Do you lean to one side when sitting? You may need additional cushioning or a postural backrest to assist with posture or lateral support.
Where will you use the wheelchair?
Are your local footpaths smooth or rough?
Do you want to go over grass or rougher terrain?
If so, a self-propel model would probably be recommended.
Folding or rigid frame?
Most of the wheelchairs in our range are foldable which makes them much easier to transport or store.
Rigid, or non-folding, frames are stronger, more durable and have a very stable feel to them. Most tilt-in-space wheelchairs are non-folding.
Arm rests types?
Full length or desk length? Desk length are shorter enabling closer access to tables but less support when transferring on or off the chair.
Fixed or flip-back/removable? Fixed arm rests are stable for transfers whilst flip-back or removable arms are required for side transfers or getting closer to fixed objects.
Who will service your wheelchair?
We service everything that we sell and believe that anyone selling wheelchair should do the same. Our trained technicians are available to come out to your home or bring your wheelchair in to our Bayswater showroom. Whilst there is very little that should ever go wrong on a wheelchair, they may require adjust/repair to the brakes, tyres/tubes, leg rests or the upholstery over years of use.
Our call out and service costs are some of the lowest in the industry. We only sell leading-brand, quality wheelchairs that are carefully selected for value, reliability and proven after-sales service.
Do you require any accessories?
We offer a wide range of options and accessories including: wheelchair cushions, postural back rests, elevating leg rests, stump supports, oxygen bottle holders, IV pole holders and gutter or trough arm rests. Ask one of our consultants for more details.
And of course, what’s your budget?
We have a large range of wheelchair to suit all budgets – check out our latest specials for some great bargains!
We can also offer assistance with funding bodies who may be able to assist you.
With so many options now available, choosing the right wheelchair can be quite challenging. We have years of experience in assessing users and finding the right product to suit your needs. We always recommend that you test out any wheelchair before purchasing. Call today and speak to one of our friendly consultants to discuss your specific requirements.
To find out more about our large range of wheelchairs, call us now on (03) 9726 2000 or visit our showroom.