4 ways to choose a wheelchair
Manual wheelchairs. Out of these 4 ways to choose a wheelchair, this one is probably that very first that comes to people’s mind. Either self-propelled or pushed by someone other than the patient, manual wheelchairs are powered by sheer human energy. This can allow for a great degree of (in)dependence; if it’s the patient who propels themselves, then they are fully in control of the mobility device. Conversely, if someone else is doing the pushing, then the patient is literally in somebody else’s hands. Either way, the keyword is control; the user is complete control of the apparatus with all the advantages and limitations that entails. The former include lighter weight, dependability, portability, economy, and less accessibility problems; the latter include secondary long-term use complications such as sore shoulders, wrists and elbows, and the obvious physical exertion required to power the wheelchair. On the plus side, manual wheelchair users have a chance to increase their upper limb strength. Dexterous users can learn to do a ‘wheelie;’ a maneuver in which the chair is balanced on the back wheels and enhances environmental access.
- Motorized scooters. While you may not think of scooters as proper wheelchairs –particularly because they are not exclusively used as mobility aids, as wheelchairs are-, the fact remains that they have a seat and wheels. Furthermore, they have advantages that manual wheelchairs lack. One of those benefits is precisely that motorized scooters do not resemble wheelchairs, certainly appealing to self-conscious users like children, for instance. In addition, they improve mobility without physical effort, and may also have a swivel seat to enable in and out transfers. The downsides are that they are harder to convey from one place to another in a car, have to be recharged, and are less flexible to modify to changing physical conditions –though they can negotiate curbs and road crossings very well.
Power wheelchairs. These are similar to scooters in the sense that they have a motor and are battery powered. However, there is a key difference, and it’s that they don’t have a steering tiller, but are controlled with a joystick. Though that sounds like fun and may remind you of your old Atari, the truth is that power wheelchairs are less reliable than manual wheelchairs. Like many things in life it’s just a matter of getting the hang of it, but in the meantime you may or may not experience a few crash landings. Also, they are more expensive difficult to transport, although a car may be modified and enabled to carry them. On the other hand, they provide the best mobility range with the least effort, are easier to modify, and are available with different power seating alternatives.
Transport chairs. This is not a repetition of one of the 4 ways to choose a wheelchair, even though it is very similar to the manual wheelchair option. The dissimilarity lies in the fact that transport chairs are not meant to be self-propelled; they can only be pushed by a second person. These chairs are designed for people whose upper body mobility is severely limited. While transport chairs provide easy access to negotiate curbs, they are not very maneuverable and consequently may present problems in crowded places. In addition to that, there will always have to be someone to push the chair, someone whom the patient must direct where they want to go, lest they become stranded. Other than that, transport usually can fold down so that they fit into a car.
Related Read: Tips for choosing a Wheelchair