How to choose a wheelchair
Choosing a Manual wheelchair
The perfect wheelchair demands more than just the right features – it’s all about the fit. A poorly fitting chair can lead to discomfort, reduced independence, and the potential for injury – things we hate seeing.
Below you will find some questions that will help guide you towards what you might need to look for in a chair (and if you’re just starting out it’ll help you navigate our website’s product filter too) but our number one piece of advice is to think about ordering a new wheelchair in the same way you would a tailor-made suit…. ALWAYS get accurate measurements taken!
This is where Motum is different to other mobility equipment suppliers – we’re owned and run by therapists so are experts in anthropometric measurement and factoring in relevant medical and functional information plus, we know our product range inside out so we can clinically prescribe the right chair. Get in touch to find out more.
As soon as you experience any signs of discomfort, we recommend that you speak with your regular therapist or give us a call.
It might be that your existing chair needs some fine tuning – or it might be that you need a new chair.
Self-propelled chairs have larger wheels with special pushrims that make it easier for the user to push themselves, whereas attendant propelled chairs often have smaller wheels at the rear of the chair, typically making pushing by the user hard-to-possible!
Most wheelchair users fall into one of these categories but the good news for those who want the best of both worlds is that there are a few models available designed perform well in both modes – we find these especially useful for children.
Manual wheelchairs can be broken down in to two categories – folding frame and rigid frame.
Folding wheelchairs have the advantage that they are good for fitting into small car boots. The disadvantage is that they are often heavier than rigid frame chairs. They are also often not as desirable for clients who self-propel as the frame is more prone to flexing and moving during use.
Something to consider is that many rigid framed chairs can actually fold down to quite a compact size once you remove the wheels and fold down the backrest.
If so then you’ll need a wheelchair that has passed the appropriate crash test and is approved for use in vehicles – almost all of our chairs offer this as a standard. You will also need a headrest fitted to the seating system.
These questions are really important as it will influence the:
- Style of wheelchair.
Size of wheels fitted to the chair.
- Type of tyre fitted to the wheels.
- Style of seating required.
- What accessories might help to deliver increased independence and mobility (the Freewheel is an especially popular addition)
Customising chairs to the person is so important – it can be the difference between feeling confident and secure or apprehensive about venturing out.
Add-ons like anti-tippers can be added to most chairs to reduce the risk of tipping backwards, however, if you’re a more active user you may actually be looking for a chair that offers a bit more ‘tip’.
Some chairs also feature an adjustable axle, ensuring that we can set the chair up to perfectly suit you.
The answer to this varies from person to person – some of our clients only require a wheelchair for occasional use (trips to the shops etc); while others will move between a chair and standing or walking frame or hi low base throughout the day, while others will spend large portions of their time in a chair.
Postural assessments are important – these identify any potential issues and will provide the information needed to ensure that you are seated comfortably.
Often the addition of pressure relieving cushions, a more supportive backrest or pelvic belt can dramatically improve a person’s posture, and, in turn, their comfort. There are plenty of off-the-shelf solutions available, but it’s also possible to create seating support that is fully customised to an individual’s body shape (we’ve got the 3D scanning technology to do this in-house too).
Tilt-in-space wheelchairs are a really good option for people who can’t shift their body weight independently. The tilting capability helps with pressure management; can make breathing easier; and help with feeding amongst other things.
There are a few different considerations here to help make transfers smoother and safer:
- If you are using a sliding board then having removeable sideguards could be of benefit.
- If you are transferring into the wheelchair from a walking frame then having removeable (or swingaway) footrests can help.
- If you are transferring predominantly from a seated surface, then the chair can be ordered so that it is at a good height to make this easier.
While these devices can be retrofitted to a chair it’s often much more cost effective to order your wheelchair so that it’s ready to take these items – and it’s less hassle for you too in the long run.
Kids grow – and sometimes they grow quickly. Remember what we said about needing to ensure that wheelchairs are all about the fit? The good news is that many of our children’s wheelchairs come with built-in growth. Our SORG and Anatomic Sitt chairs are great examples of these.
Almost all wheelchairs have set weight limits. In most cases this is most relevant for older children and adolescents. The majority of adult chairs typically have a maximum weight limit of between 100 and 150kg. You can find all available weight limits on our product pages, under Technical Information.
Brands such as SORG and Wolturnus, which custom build chairs also offer an extensive range of accessories such as oxygen holders. Where possible it’s always better to design a chair with these features built in, rather than add it on later.