14 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Wheelchair

Mobility | Dignity | Independence

1. What is a wheelchair?

A wheelchair is a practical and functional form of mobility for those who may otherwise suffer severe restrictions. The operation of a wheelchair is not an evolved natural function. There is no standard wheelchair which fits every one. Individuals have different requirements.

2. What is my best option in selecting a wheelchair?

The best option is a lightweight high quality wheelchair.  The lighter a wheelchair the less force the arms are required to deliver in starting, stopping and rolling, particularly up hill. It will also be lighter to lift into a car.  A higher quality wheelchair will tend to roll straighter and have less rolling resistance.  A high quality wheelchair will usually have more adjustments so that it may be set up to suit the individual.

3. How about a Portable Wheelchair?

If a wheelchair is to be portable (loaded it into a vehicle), then make sure it folds easily and practice loading it before you buy

4. Does it suit Me?

Make sure the wheelchair suits your lifestyle (fits into your vehicle easily, meets your use patterns, like the look of it, etc.)

5. Can I have the cheapest?

Cost is important, but getting cheap or used equipment may not be cost effective. It is important to purchase what suites you best and will last.

6. Does the weight of the wheelchair matter?

Lightweight wheelchairs weigh approximately half the traditional manual wheelchairs. They are easier to propel and easier to load into a car. Most have sturdy frames, cost more but generally last longer.

7. What about their Wheels?

Large wheels are more suitable for outdoor use but the occupier tends to sit higher. Smaller wheels are more suitable for even indoor surfaces and will tend to be more manoeuvrable in restricted areas. It may be appropriate to have a wheel chair for home and one to take out.

8. Do we need to pump the Tyres?

Traditional solid tyres may not require pumping up but do give a hard ride. Polyurethane Foam Tyres (PUF) now give the solid tyre no puncture advantage with a pneumatic tyre ride.

9. Any other things to take care of?

Some persons may find a solid seat more comfortable. A solid seat will usually consist of a detachable board with a hard foam mat (which may be cut to fit the person’s contours) with an appropriate cover.

10. Seat Belt

If remaining in the chair in a vehicle a seat belt should be attached to the frame of the chair and fastened over the occupier’s pelvis.

11. Back Support

Back support may be provided with a solid back or lumbar roll.

12. Hip/Knee/Ankle Position

Many chairs are being produced with joint angles less than 90 degrees. This is so that the rider may sit lower, and in a better position with respect to the drive wheels. However it increases the overall length of the wheel chair.

13. Arm Rests

Consider the style you want and their ability to be removed or swung out of the way.

14. How is a Power chair different from Wheelchair?

Powered wheelchairs

  • Look like wheelchairs
  • Usually provide more support
  • Easier to customise
  • Easier to load into a vehicle
  • More agile and manoeuvrable in small places
  • More specialised and may be more expensive than a scooter