While it may not seem the case on the surface, choosing a wheelchair is both as simple and as complex as going out to buy a new pair of shoes. The standard rules apply in both cases: No one size fits all, and the right choice is the choice you feel the most comfortable in. Nevertheless, choosing the right wheelchair is several times more important than selecting a pair of shoes; a wrong choice would mean huge levels of discomfort for you throughout the day and may even result in the worsening of your condition. But choosing the right kind of wheelchair is difficult, given all the types that are out there:
- Transport wheelchairs
- Standard manual wheelchairs
- Heavy-Duty and Bariatric Manual Wheelchairs
- Light and Ultra-lightweight wheelchairs
- Sport wheelchairs
- Pediatric wheelchairs
- Tilt and Recliner wheelchairs
- Hemi-height wheelchairs
- Motorized wheelchairs
So, how does one go about choosing the right kind for themselves? Simple. You try them all and score them on the five following aspects.
If you’re not a five-year-old or younger, the pediatric wheelchair is completely out of the question. But size is the first thing you need to look out for when buying a wheelchair. You don’t want the seat to be too tight of a fit, or your legs do not even rise above the floor when you sit, but you don’t want to disappear in an enormous wheelchair either. Balance and comfort should be your guiding principles here. Everything from the seat width, to the height above the ground your legs hang, to the length of the armrests, should be something that you are completely comfortable with.
If your daily routine is slower and you’d require a steadier pace of movement investing into heavier wheelchair would be a good choice since the extra inertia these would provide you would do the job. However, if you’d rather be quicker and more agile in your locomotion then buying a wheelchair off a lightweight category would do you more benefit.
If you’re the person who frequently travels and who can drive a car on your own (or have someone to drive you places), then you should consider getting a wheelchair that is relatively portable, i.e., can be carried minus you. Almost all wheelchairs today are quite portable, with most folding into half to be able to carry in the trucks of cars, but some models take this further by being extra light and folding into even smaller sizes for transport. Something to look into if you need something easier to carry than the standard.
Motorized or Hand propelled
On the surface, motorized wheelchairs appear to be nothing more than a gimmick. In reality, they can be far more effective at getting you around, especially considering the newer models that have graced the market over the past years, that can provide more than decent speeds on roads. So, if you feel propelling a wheelchair on your own is too tiring a task, you can certainly look into motorized wheelchairs. Be warned though. Motorized wheelchairs are significantly more expensive than hand propelled ones, so if budget is a concern when you’re buying yourself a wheelchair, then it may be best to not opt for the motorized kind.
One of the best features any wheelchair can offer you is adjustability. Crank a lever here, push a button there and presto! You’ve instantly adjusted the height and recline to a more comfortable spot than you were in before. This is especially beneficial because while you may have been comfortable with the size settings when you bought the wheelchair, you may get tired of that setting in a while, and instead of regretting your purchase, all you’d have to do to get comfortable again is to adjust your chair to the new setting. The more adjustable the seat is, the greater it’ll work for you long-term and the more comfortable you’ll find sitting in it.
Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that due to budget or other constraints, you may not be able to find a wheelchair with the highest scores in each attribute for you. One model may be very adjustable but may not be as lightweight as you want, while another may be the best fit regarding size but lacking in portability. Regardless of the choices presented to you, there is only one thing that you need to remember as your top priority: Comfort. Everything else is secondary and should only affect your decision if you are comfortable with all choices available to you.