Seven Things to Consider When Choosing a Manual Wheelchair

Karma S Ergo 125 SP

Wheelchairs come in a multitude of shapes and sizes to fit the many and varied needs and lifestyles of users. It’s important to choose the right chair for you. Here we cover the top seven things to consider when making that choice.


Who Will Push Your Chair?

If you want to be able to wheel yourself around then you will need a self-propel style chair. These have larger rear wheels, swiveling front castors and hand rims that make it easier to maneuver the chair on your own.

If you will always be pushed around in your chair then a transit model may be more suitable. These have smaller rear wheels and usually offer attendant brakes to assist a carer to reduce speed down hills or lock in place for patient safety.

If you want to be able to wheel yourself but also expect a carer or family member to push your chair then it’s important to consider the weight of your chair. Self-propel style chairs can be standard weight (+16kg), lightweight (12-16kg) or ultra lightweight (8-12kg). Ask yourself if a carer will be able to push the combined weight of yourself and the chair, particularly up an incline, when considering the appropriate chair weight.


How Much Time Will You Spend in Your Chair?

The more time you spend in your chair the more critical comfort becomes to your purchase decision.

If you are in your chair all day you may want to consider a tilt-in space model. These chairs are fully adjustable and let you change your orientation without changing the hip to back angle. The freedom of movement these chairs allow will significantly reduce pressure build up.

Alternatively consider specialty pressure care cushions and backrests to improve chair comfort and relieve pressure. Willaid stock a broad range of cushions and backrests.

If you want a wheelchair for occasional use, then consider a light weight folding chair which is easy to dismantle for transport or storage.


How Will You Get In and Out of Your Chair?

Consider how easy or difficult it will be for you to get in and out of your chair. Swing away, removable leg rests make it easier to access your chair from the front. Flip-back armrests make side transfer easier.


How Big or Small Are You?

Ideally a wheelchair should be carefully fitted to your size and needs.   If you are particularly big or small there a some things you need to think about.

Heavy-duty chairs are designed to suit heavier or Bariatric users. The seats are wider and the weight capacity ranges from 160-325kg. Bear in mind that a heavy duty chair itself is quite heavy, weighing anywhere from 15-27kg.

Make sure the legs are comfortable. If you need a lower floor to seat height then consider a model that offers height adjustment in the wheel axle.


What Activities Will You Do in Your Chair?

If you will be taking your chair outside and wheeling over grass or rough terrain then a self propel model offers more stability than a transit model.

Bear in mind that the lighter the chair the easier it will be to propel and transport. So if you plan on doing a lot of moving in your chair, you may want to invest in an ultra lightweight model.

For those with a very active lifestyle, a sports model may be most appropriate. These chairs are very lightweight, small and strong, with wheels pushed inward toward the user to provide more responsiveness.

If you spend much of your day at a desk you may want to consider desk length arm rests. These shorter arm rests enable you to have closer access to a table or desk. (You do sacrifice support when transferring in and out of the chair.)


Will You Need to Transport Your Chair?

Consider how often your chair needs to be transported and who will be doing the transporting. If you need to move your chair in and out of a car boot then you will need a folding frame chair.

Consider also the weight of the chair relative to the strength of the person who will be transporting the chair. Can they easily lift the chair in and out of the car?