Choosing the right wheelchair for you
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 09 November 2020
Today’s breed of wheelchairs vary significantly, so when it comes to deciding the right type for you, it’s easy to see why you could be overwhelmed by the many different options and styles.
Yet, choosing the right kind of wheelchair is vitally important; it will impact your comfort, ease of use, and even your confidence to use the chair.
Understanding the different features and functions of each type and style of wheelchair is important, while also asking yourself what you want from your wheelchair, and how it can help you on a day-to-day basis. Because of the complexities involved with this decision-making process, especially if you are a first-time wheelchair user, it’s a good idea to seek professional guidance from a trained therapist.
Type of wheelchair
Wheelchairs can be broadly broken down into those that you push yourself (manual) by turning the rim (or are pushed by someone else) or those that are electric and powered by a battery (controlled by a type of joystick). If you don’t have strong upper arm mobility, or want to be able to get around without being pushed by someone else, then a powered wheelchair would be the more suitable option.
You can also find some types of manual wheelchairs that can have a power function added to them, giving you the option to give your arms a rest and let the wheelchair do the work.
Power wheelchairs are also operated by different types of battery systems, so this is something else you’ll need to bear in mind. Some battery types are more expensive than others but may benefit from a longer life. Others may not be suitable if you intend to take your chair on a plane, so if you travel overseas, make sure your wheelchair battery complies with aircraft regulations.
Speaking of travel, it’s also worth thinking about how convenient your wheelchair is if you like to get out and about and visit different places, particularly abroad. A wheelchair that can be easily folded and is lightweight would be ideal in this scenario.
Comfort is key when choosing a wheelchair, especially if you intend to use it for long periods of time. It pays to spend time researching your options to ensure you find one that suits your own health and physical needs precisely.
Wheelchairs come in different shapes and sizes, so it’s essential to make sure yours has the right seat width and depth. Height is important, too; your feet should not be dangling on the floor and your back should also feel comfortable and supported. Research the different types of arm-rests and leg-rests to find those that work well for you. For example, shorter armrests are ideal if you plan to sit at a desk or table a lot, while longer ones offer additional arm support.
People who use wheelchairs are at an increased risk of experiencing pressure sores, so it’s imperative to think about the seating and positioning of the chair to prevent sores and give the body some relief.
The cushion material of the chair can play a part in keeping pressure sores at bay, with options including gel or liquid that moves, as well as air or foam.
Some types of wheelchair can recline or tilt, which can redistribute pressure from different parts of the body. Equally, standing chairs are available, which can aid circulation and reduce pressure sores, but these are often more expensive and heavier than other styles.
The wheelchair you use should be fit for purpose, so think about how often you’ll be using it, and where you’ll be taking it. Just because you use a wheelchair doesn’t mean to say that you can’t lead an active lifestyle, with many options designed for those who like to get out and about. Some wheelchairs come with specific types of tyres that make them suitable for use on a beach or off-road, for instance. Others are designed for those who play particular sports, ensuring that they don’t tip over.
The more you need or intend to use your wheelchair, the more thought you should put into what features are important to you. It makes sense to invest in a decent quality chair, especially if you’ll be relying on it a lot, compared to just the occasional use.
It’s also important to think about how your needs might change over time. For example, children who are still developing and growing will need to get their wheelchairs replaced or adapted more frequently than adults.
Once you have found a wheelchair that seems right for you, research what other users have got to say about it. But, remember, everyone’s needs are different, so even if a chair isn’t right for someone else, it doesn’t mean to say it won’t be the perfect choice for you.
By looking after your wheelchair you can minimise repairs, however, there are some things you can’t prevent, such as accidents or theft. We provide insurance for manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs, and mobility scooters.
If you’d like to speak to someone about insuring your equipment, call a member of the Fish Insurance team on 0333 331 3770.