Things to consider
The type of wheelchair you need will depend on how and where you'll use it. Asking yourself some key questions can help narrow down your options.
Think about these questions as you read through this guide and refer back to them if you need to. It’ll help you narrow down what you need.
There are three main types of manual wheelchairs:
Transit or attendant propelled wheelchairs
Transit or attendant propelled wheelchairs are ideal if you can’t push yourself. The rear wheels are small, so you’ll need someone to push you in the chair from behind. The small rear wheels make the chair much lighter and easier to transport. They’re also smaller, and therefore easier to move around tight spaces.
Self-propelled wheelchairs have large rear wheels and smaller front wheels. These enable you to wheel yourself in the chair, making you more independent. But keep in mind they do require some upper body strength to use, so if you have limited mobility or strength in your arms, an electric or attendant propelled wheelchair might be a better option for you. Self-propelled wheelchairs are also larger and heavier than transit chairs, so they’re not ideal for navigating around tight spaces.
Lightweight foldable wheelchairs
Lightweight foldable wheelchairs are the most commonly used type of wheelchair. They are generally collapsible, so you can fold them up when you’re not using them. This makes them particularly useful for outings and travel. You can get these chairs in both transit and self-propelled versions.
How do I know what size wheelchair is right?
Just like a pair of shoes, a wheelchair has to fit you properly. It is important that the wheelchair is comfortable and that it is not likely to press on any part of the body, with the potential of creating pressure areas.
The main things to consider when getting the right size wheelchair is your hip width, the length of your thigh, and your weight.
Usually, wheelchairs are measured by the seat size, so an 18” wheelchair means the seat is 18” wide. If you see a wheelchair measuring 18”x17”, the second number is the depth of the seat.
Ideally you want to have the back-upholstery end just under the shoulder blade. Sometimes carers like to have the push canes higher to make it easier for them to
push but be careful in raising them up too high as this can often stop the users
being able to self-propel easily. An adjustable height backrest is an idea especially
if a wheelchair cushion hasn’t been decided on yet.
Armrests may seem like a pretty minor feature of a wheelchair but getting a chair with the right armrests is actually pretty important.
Some wheelchairs have armrests that can be removed or swung away, and some have fixed armrests. This is important, depending on how and where you use your wheelchair most.
If you need to stand up from your wheelchair a lot, full-length armrests are
important because you’ll something to support your weight as you get out. If you’ll be using your wheelchair in an office, you could get a wheelchair with
desk-length armrests, which allow you to get closer to a desk.
There are two main types of leg rests: flip up or elevating.