When buying a new wheelchair you want to make sure you make the right decision to suit your environment, your lifestyle, your condition and your budget. With such a comprehensive range of both powered and manual wheelchairs available the choice can seem overwhelming, but with a bit of prior research and the help of a qualified professional to assess your needs you can easily find the right wheelchair for you!
How do my personal needs influence the purchase of a wheelchair?
The first question you must ask yourself when purchasing a wheelchair is what features it must have to suit you, keeping in mind your disability and day-to-day use (e.g. if you can transfer yourself from the wheelchair (to a car seat, bed, or toilet). It’s also worth anticipating any changing needs you may have in the near future – is your physical health likely to change, detoriate, or improve in the next few years which may influence your choice in wheelchair?
Your size and weight will also influence your choice. As a general rule the seat must be between 1 and 4 cm wider than your hips and it is very important to verify that the wheelchair is approved for your weight. A wheelchair assessment with a dealership or NHS Wheelchair Service will take these measurements to ensure your choice of wheelchair is suitable for you.
The second point that you must consider are the capabilities that your wheelchair must offer you. If you need to fold it up regularly, look for a chair that folds up without tools and that takes up little space. If you are going to use it for practising sport and recreation, the lighter the better, and if you have to access tight spaces look for one with folding footrests or very compact dimensions. If you need other technical aids (cushions, lift and tilt a cane holder etc…) or another type of wheelchair accessory look for one that is compatible with all of these. Again, an approved dealership or NHS Wheelchair Service will be able to advise you.
Your surroundings need to be taken into consideration too: do you need a compact wheelchair more suited for an indoor environment, or something that has a good mix of indoor/outdoor capabilities? Maybe you need to be able to tackle more challenging outdoor terrain? Often an assessment can be carried out within your home environment to ensure the wheelchair suits your surroundings.
You should also consider budget and funding options. Look into whether you qualify for any grants, Motability or other allowances, or Wheelchair vouchers from the NHS.
Generally, all wheelchairs are configurable, so they can be adapted to suit the user and their requirements. Adjustments such as the size and position of the seat and back can be made along with other adaptations, such as detachable armrests and footrests this in-built adjustment can be useful where your needs may change in the future.
Electric, manual, and ultra-light wheelchairs
There are many medical conditions and reasons for using a wheelchair and the choice of wheelchairs is similarly extensive to cater for this. One of the first choices you will need to make is whether to opt for a powered wheelchair or manual wheelchair and this is usually dependent on the level of independence of the user.
Powered wheelchairs are usually used by people that cannot propel themselves. The QUICKIE range of powered wheelchairs includes a great range of models: from compact indoor powered wheelchairs, to more sturdy outdoor options.
There are some considerations to bear in mind when selecting the right powered wheelchair for you, for example, you will need to consider which drive-base suits you best (i.e. whether the wheelchair has a front, mid or rear wheel drive) and what control system you would like (some give the ability to control other technology whilst using your wheelchair). Again, these are selections that can be discussed during an assessment.
The degree of independence will also influence the selection of a manual wheelchair:
- A self-propelled manual wheelchair will have larger back wheels and are intended for people with a high degree of independence.
- Non-self-propelled manual wheelchairs are narrower, have smaller back wheels and need to be pushed by another person.
Within the QUICKIE range of manual wheelchairs, you can find examples of both of these types.
The material that the wheelchair is made from is also a factor to keep in mind when purchasing a manual wheelchair.
Manual wheelchairs are generally made from four materials:
- Steel: Heavier but also more sturdy and resistant.
- Aluminium: Light and easy to transport
- Titanium: More lightweight
- Carbon Fibre: Ultralightweight
Choosing a rigid or foldable frame is another important decision when buying a manual wheelchair. The chassis of the chairs with a rigid frame is much lighter since it lacks joints and hinges. Foldable chairs on the other hand are easier to transport, but their folding ability may affect propulsion.
Even when you’ve selected the model of wheelchair that’s right for you, there are still choices to be made in terms of options – everything from wheel camber, colour, sideguards and much more can be tailored to suit you. And if you need more customisation, Sunrise Medical’s Built-4-Me department can provide a custom-made solution.
Buying a suitable wheelchair can be life-changing. At Sunrise Medical we offer a wide range of powered and manual wheelchairs to suit an array of needs and budgets. We have a comprehensive and well trained dealer network who can carry out detailed assessments to help you to find the best solutions and options for you.
We also work closely with the NHS to provide a range of wheelchairs which can be prescribed dependent upon prescription. Take a look at our product ranges on our website, or contact us to find your nearest authorised Quickie dealership who can work with you to find the right solution for you.