Whether you have suffered an injury or an illness that has impacted your mobility, or you are aging and getting around is becoming more difficult, a wheelchair is going to become a valuable tool for you. With the help of a wheelchair, getting around will be a lot easier for you.
While a wheelchair is valuable tool, finding the best one for your needs can be a bit of a challenge. There are so many different options available, which can make it difficult to choose a wheelchair that will best suit your needs. So, how do you go about finding the best wheelchair? – By reading this buyer’s guide, of course!
In this buyer’s guide, we have included everything that you need to know about buying a wheelchair, including the different types, the factors that you should take into consideration when buying a wheelchair, the different features that they can offer, and the best wheelchair brands. After reading this buyer’s guide, you will be well informed and ready to choose the wheelchair that will best suit your specific needs.
Types of Wheelchairs
In order to find the best wheelchair for your specific needs, the first thing you need to know is that there are different types of wheelchairs. The goal of each type of wheelchair is to improve mobility; however, wheelchairs differ in their style, their function and their size. In total, there are 12 different types of wheelchairs, which include:
- The basic wheelchair
- The narrow wheelchair
- The standard wheelchair
- The lightweight wheelchair
- The extra wide wheelchair
- The antimicrobial wheelchair
- The bariatric wheelchair
- The heavy duty transport wheelchair
- The standard transport wheelchair
- The reclining wheelchair
- The pediatric wheelchair
- The MRI wheelchair
Below, you will find a detailed description of each of these 12 types of wheelchairs.
The Basic Wheelchair
The most basic of wheelchairs include rests for the feet and legs, and sometimes the leg rests can be elevated. The basic wheelchair also offers either full length or desk length (shorter) arm rests. The seat width options for the basic wheelchair include 16 inches, 18 inches and 20 inches.
The Narrow Wheelchair
This type of wheelchair is the same as a basic wheelchair; however, the width of the seat is usually only available in 16 inches.
The Standard Wheelchair
The standard wheelchair is a basic model that offers several different available features, such as variable seat widths, detachable foot rests, leg rests that elevate, either permanent or removable arm rests, and full length or desk length arms.
The Lightweight Wheelchair
As the name suggests, the lightweight wheelchair is lighter in weight than other types of wheelchairs. It is ideal for people who travel a lot with their chairs, as it is easier to pick up, store and transport. The lightweight wheelchair typically offers the same features that a basic or standard model wheelchair offers, and it can also offer a quick release wheel, which makes it even more portable, as wheel as a back height that can be adjusted.
The Extra Wide Wheelchair
Most other wheelchairs have a typical weight capacity of 300 pounds; however, the extra wide wheelchair has an increased weight capacity, which can range from 350 pounds to 450 pounds. Also, the width options are larger; typically between 20 inches and 24 inches wide.
The Antimicrobial Wheelchair
The antimicrobial wheelchair is designed with antimicrobial technologies on the major surfaces that the person using the seat touches, such as the actual seat itself, the arm rests and the foot rests. This antimicrobial technology slows or completely prevents the growth of bacteria that can cause staining or odors to develop. The upholstery on an antimicrobial wheelchair is usually made of vinyl as opposed to the nylon that is used on other wheelchairs.
The Bariatric Wheelchair
The bariatric wheelchair can accommodate the heaviest weights. It usually has a widened seat, with options that include 24 inches, 26 inches, 28 inches and 30 inches. This type of wheelchair can also accommodate as much as 700 pounds in weight.
The Heavy Duty Transport Wheelchair
This type of wheelchair has rear wheels that are close to around 12 inches in diameter; the wheels are not intended for the person using the chair to reach and roll forward. It can offer a back that folds down, which makes storage and transport much easier than with other types of wheelchairs. It may also offer handbrakes, which will give the person pushing the chair increased control.
The Standard Transport Wheelchair
The standard transport wheelchair is smaller than the heavy duty transport wheelchair. It is built to support people that weight up to 300 pounds. The back also folds down for easy storage. The seat is also a little bit slimmer than heavy duty wheelchairs, too. The rear wheels are also smaller in diameter and they are lighter weight than heavy duty wheelchairs.
The Recliner Wheelchair
The recliner wheelchair is a type of heavy duty wheelchair. It is designed to support up to 700 pounds. The back reclines, which opens up the torso and redistributes the person’s weight in a safer and more comfortable manner.
The Pediatric Wheelchair
This type of wheelchair is specifically designed to be used with children and smaller people. It can support a maximum of 250 pounds, and the seat is also narrower and shallower. This type of wheelchair is also set a little lower to the ground, which makes it easier for the person pushing the wheelchair to access the handles.
The MRI Wheelchair
Because everything that is brought into a magnetic resonance imaging suit must be non-magnetic, including wheelchairs, the MRI wheelchair was designed. This type of wheelchair is made out of non-magnetic materials, such as PVC pipe, which also inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Wheelchair
In order to find the best wheelchair for your specific needs, there are a number of factors that you are going to want to take into consideration. Some of the most important factors that you are going to want to consider include the clearance of the chair, the width and depth of the seat, and the cost of the wheelchair. By taking these factors into consideration, you will be able to choose the best wheelchair for your particular needs. To learn more about the factors that we consider to be the most important when shopping for a wheelchair, please keep on reading.
The Specifications of the Wheelchair
The specifications of the wheelchair are important to consider, as they will determine the structure and the conditions of the intended user. The height, the posture, the weight and the structure of the intended user is very important, as it will help you make the best choice of wheelchair, as per the information provided by the specifications set forth by the manufacturer.
The Seat Width
The width of the seat is important, as it will directly impact the comfort of the person using the chair. Do not confuse the space between the arms with the width of the seat; the bottom and the back of the patient should be measured when sitting on a flat surface to determine the proper seat width.
The Space Between the Arms
The space between the arms is extremely important, as it will determine whether or not the user will actually be able to fit into the wheelchair.
The Depth of the Seat
The height of the person using the chair will determine the proper depth for the chair. The depth of a wheelchair is measured from the front of the seat to the back. You can measure the seat that the user comfortably sits in to determine the proper seat depth, or you can measure the back of the buttocks to the inside of the knees while in the seating position on a flat surface.
The Seat to Floor Height
This is measured from the floor to the seat. If it is too short, the legs may drag on the floor, and if it is too long, the user may not be able to touch the floor.
The Back Height
This is measured from the back of the upholstery to the bottom, and is typically measured from inside the wheelchair. It will greatly impact the comfort and the support of the user. To determine the proper back height, measure the user from the top of his or her shoulders to the bottom of the backside.
The arms are also an important factor to consider. There are full arm and desk arm styles, as well as fixed and removable arms. Full arms are longer, while desk arms are shorter; fixed arms cannot be removed, and removable arms can be.
The Foot Rest
Choose a food rest that will allow you the most comfort and that is easy to operate. A foot rest should be able to be easily moved, which will allow the user to get in and out of the wheelchair with greater ease.
The Leg Rest
Leg rests provide you with a spot to rest your legs; for example, if you have broken a leg or suffered some other leg injury, the leg rest will come in handy. Like the foot rest, you should choose a leg rest that is as comfortable as possible, and that can easily be moved up or down.
The Weight of the Wheelchair
The weight of the wheelchair will impact your ability to pick it up and store it. Keep this in mind if you plan on traveling with your wheelchair a lot.
The Clearance of the Wheelchair
The clearance is also important, as it will determine whether you can get the wheelchair into and out of a room. Make sure to measure the width of the entire back and front of the wheelchair, including the foot rests. Also, make sure you measure the areas you will be using the wheelchair in the most. This will ensure that you will purchase a wheelchair that will clear those areas.
The tires will also impact the mobility of the wheelchair, as they will dictate the surface that they can be used on. Pneumatic tires have inflatable tubes and offer more cushioning, though they can easily puncture. Kevlar tires are heavier duty and more resistant, but they are heavier and more expensive. Solid rubber tires will never go flat, but they can make the ride bumpy.
The Cost of the Wheelchair
Wheelchairs can range dramatically in price. Larger chairs that can accommodate more weight and that offer more features tend to be more expensive. Make sure you keep your budget in mind so you can avoid spending more than you are comfortable with.
Features Wheelchairs Can Offer
Wheelchairs can offer a range of features. These features are intended to make the wheelchair easier to use and more comfortable. As mentioned above, the more features a wheelchair offers, the more expensive it will be.
Here is a look at some of the top features a wheelchair can offer.
Electric wheelchairs can offer advanced controls. They can either be controlled by a single finger, by a touchpad or even by using your head.
Removable Seat and Seat Cover
Removable seats provide added comfort and stability. This will allow you to easily clean the seat, and some seat covers are even waterproof.
Stand Up Option
This feature is usually specific to electric wheelchairs, though it is becoming more popular for all types of wheelchairs. With this feature, the seat lifts, the steering is enhanced, and there is also a more advanced suspension system. With the touch of a button, you will be able to go from the seated position to the standing position.
Best Wheelchair Brands
There are several manufacturers that produce wheelchairs. Here are our picks for the best brands available.
Carex Health Brands
This company produces all types of wheelchairs and offers exceptionally durable design and function. They are high quality, are built to last, and are easy to use.
Another trusted manufacturer of wheelchairs is Karman. Extremely comfortable, durable, lightweight and offering an array of features, it is no wonder why Karman wheelchairs are considered some of the best.
We also found that Medline wheelchairs are well constructed, durable, comfortable and offer a wide range of features that can improve your comfort.