To properly understand how to pick the best wheelchair for you (or someone you are caring for), you should contact a medical professional before choosing your wheelchair. This specialist will be able to accurately explain which chair will best suit your needs. There are some key factors which can affect your decision-making processes such as mobility, balance, body type and posture.
Primarily, you need to address how able you are to move around. If you have limited mobility, then you will have to consider not only the movement of the wheelchair, but also your ability to get in and out of it. Secondly, are you able to keep your balance for longer periods or do you find yourself struggling for balance? Additionally, if you have any issues with remaining steady in the chair itself, then you may want to consider a chair with strong armrests to support you.
Your posture is also very important to think about when selecting a wheelchair. Posture is how you hold your body and its shape and curvature. Certain body types will suit chairs differently, and consequently, it could be that you find a chair which ticks most of the boxes, but still may require a cushion to provide comfort.
Your size and weight must also be seriously considered if you are selecting a wheelchair, as to not do so could cause several unforeseen problems in the future. A good rule of thumb to follow when choosing your chair, is to have a seat that is between 2cm and 4cm wider than your hips. If the user is too heavy for the chair, this could cause pressure problems and perhaps early breakages. More importantly, it would be uncomfortable and create additional stress.
If you are capable of exercising or enjoy the outdoors, then this is something which will need to be addressed when purchasing the wheelchair. Some chairs have been designed for indoor use and therefore would struggle in outdoor terrain, whereas some can be equally used at home and outdoors. Additionally, if you are more active, there are models which have been specifically designed to allow for exercise and sports.
You may also want to think of the model and design of the chair, and this means considering whether it is electric or manual, as well as the material it is made from. If you have a good amount of autonomy then you can pay less for the manual wheelchair, as you will be able to move around without electrical support. There are different types of manual wheelchairs, for example the Shopper Transit Ultra-Light Frame Wheelchair is designed with padded armrests for comfort and the backrests can fold up making storage and transport much easier. This has larger back wheels which gives greater freedom to push yourself forward at quicker speeds.
However, for those people who may have greater mobility issues, perhaps cause by limited strength, then you may wish to consider an electric wheelchair. These can be life-changing for anyone living with a disability that has heavily impacted their movement. Some models have been equipped to work outdoors and provide even greater freedom. Options such as the Salsa R2 Powered Wheelchair can prove very effective as it incorporates great indoors and urban performance, as a well as having a top speed of 10km/h which allows you to move around quickly and efficiently when outdoors. Another option could be the Glide Centro Power Wheelchair, which prides itself on its steering ability, and has emergency suspension if the driver is heading downhill at a quicker pace than they’d like. Electric wheelchairs are a fantastic choice for those who may be lacking mobility but wish to continue living their life as normally as possible.
Finally, the material used in the wheelchair is something that should be an important consideration. Wheelchairs tend to come in four main material: steel, aluminium, titanium, and carbon fibre. Each has their own strengths and purposes. Steel wheelchairs are heavier than their other counterparts and people with limited strength may wish to purchase a different option. However, steel is very strong and resistant, and for more heavy occupants may be more suitable. The Glide 1 transit Wheelchair would be an ideal choice of steel wheelchair, as its smaller frame would also allow it to manoeuvre in smaller spaces, and it can fit into the boot of mid to small-sized cars. Meanwhile, carbon fibre wheelchairs are incredibly lightweight, which makes them easier to move and less strenuous to operate.