Choosing the right wheelchair
Choosing the right wheelchairis all about what type of wheelchair you need. For example, if you have no special requirements a basic wheelchair will probably suffice for you. A basic model features footrests and leg rests, and sometimes includes elevating largest with either full length or desk length arms, and seat width ranging from 16 and 18 to 20 inches. If you desire more functionality, the standard model is pretty much the basic one only with added features like variable seat widths, detachable footrest, and permanent or removable arms, among others. Hemiplegic patients –that is who have good use of at least one leg or have lost use of one arm- may benefit from foot drive chairs and one-hand drive chairs.
In the foot drive chair the seat is approximately 2 inches lower than in a standard wheelchair and features specially adapted front riggings to allow the patient to make the most of their one leg. As for the one-hand drive chair, it is equipped with a system that can be operated from one side. Additionally, the driving wheels are interconnected so that a dual set of hand rims on one side can control either or both. This model may also be useful for an amputee; however, bilateral amputees may benefit more from an amputee chair, in which the front rigging is taken off for amputees who don’t wear artificial legs. Consequently, the adequate level of stability is achieved.
If the wheelchair-bound person spends most, if not all of their time at home (theirs or a nursing home), they may go for an indoor chair, which is easier to maneuver in small spaces than the basic model, though it is hard to propel and does not negotiate curbs and steps as well. On the other hand, people who travel with their chairs are better served with a lightweight model. Lightweight wheelchairs are frequently upholstered in nylon, and provide the same optional features as the basic and standard models, plus optional quick-release wheel removal and adjustable-height back.
Most wheelchairs are designed to be both and self-propelled and pushed from behind by a second party. There are exceptions to this though, and that’s something to keep in mind when choosing the right wheelchair. For instance, heavy duty transport chairs are not meant to be self-propelled. Their wheels are usually about 12’’ in diameters, which obviously precludes the person sitting on the chair from actually reaching and rolling forward. Conversely, they tend to feature handbrakes to allow the person pushing to exert improved control. In spite of all of this, this kind of wheelchair is designed to be as lightweight as possible, as little as 35 lbs and still able to sustain up to 400 lbs. The previous example is similar to a bariatric wheelchair, which is also engineered to withstand extreme amounts of weight; up to 700 lbs in some instances. These chairs are often recommended for overweight patients.
The fact that someone is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that they can’t play sports such as basketball, or even full contact ones as depicted in the documentary Murderball, on wheelchair rugby. As such, there are lightweight, high-performance sports wheelchairs for the wheelchair athlete. The research for sports chairs has actually led to breakthroughs in traditional wheelchairs. Additionally, sports wheelchairs may be used for other activities such as camping and mountain climbing.
Finally, there is also the motorized wheelchair, which can be used by people with common mobility impairments, as well as by patients with cardiovascular and fatigue-related conditions. Motorized wheelchairs are powered by an electric motor and operated by means of a joystick on the armrest.
Related Read: Choosing the right wheelchair cushion