Choosing the Right Wheelchair

A wheelchair is a technical mobility aid that makes it easy to transport a sitting person on a flat surface.

Above all, the wheelchair must be seen as an extension of the body. It helps regain mobility by compensating for the inability, difficulty or fatigability of walking, whether temporary or permanent. Wheelchairs represent a return to independence that is much more important than the symbol of disability they represent in the collective psyche.

Today, many sports are accessible to people in wheelchairs, hence the need to have a sports wheelchair adapted to the activity.

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  • What are the selection criteria for choosing a wheelchair?

    In order to choose the most suitable wheelchair, you must take into consideration:

    • The type of chair:

      Sunrise active wheelchair

      • Whether it is active or passive: “active” wheelchairs are intended to offer the greatest autonomy to users. They allow people with reduced mobility to move quickly by themselves, and to pass through confined spaces once they have mastered their wheelchair. Often equipped with quick-release wheels and a foldable backrest, these chairs can easily be stored in the trunk of a car.
        On the other hand, “passive” wheelchairs are pushed by a third party and are intended for transporting disabled people who do not have the strength or ability to push themselves. These vehicles can also be folded or easily dismantled by another person.
      • Whether it is electric or manual: electric wheelchairs offer greater comfort and require less effort from users. They allow users to make tight turns and easily overcome obstacles such as entry thresholds. Thanks to technological advances, these wheelchairs have a very solid structure while remaining lightweight and easy to dismantle. They can be equipped with a second battery to allow for a longer range, up to over 20 km. The vehicle control unit can be placed, on request, on the right or left side of the wheelchair. The on/off switch is easily accessible to any user and a selector switch allows the speed to be adjusted.
        Manual wheelchairs promote the autonomy of people who still have some upper limb range. They sometimes require measurement of the user ahead of time as well as a thorough study of the user’s needs so that they are best adapted to each person.
    • Daily use of the chair: what comfort level is needed? If a person with reduced mobility spends most of their time in a wheelchair, it is advisable to choose the most comfortable vehicle possible with a thick seat cushion, armrests, headrest, footrest, etc. If, on the contrary, it is a wheelchair that simply allows a person to be transported from their home to the car, for example, all of these accessories won’t be necessary.
    • Indoor or outdoor wheelchair and maneuverability: while a lot of wheelchairs can be used both indoors and outdoors, some are designed for special temporary use. This is the case for shower wheelchairs, which are used for showers or toilets.
      Depending on whether the wheelchair will be used indoors or outdoors, handling is an important factor to consider. The smaller the front wheels, the more maneuverable the wheelchair will be indoors; and the larger the front wheels, the better the wheelchair will overcome obstacles such as doorways, sidewalks or gravel.
    • Accessory options: many accessories can be added to wheelchairs. In addition to the armrests, headrests or footrests mentioned above, it is possible to integrate a cover for the seat cushion, a multifunctional bag to attach to the backrest of the wheelchair, a folding tray for writing or eating, a seat belt, leg rest, etc. Handles can also be screwed to the wheels of active wheelchairs for a better grip.
  • Are there wheelchairs designed for sports?

    DaVinci sport wheelchair

    Just because a person has a physical disability does not mean that they cannot participate in sports. Today, equipment is more and more diversified and easy to use, increasing the options for people with reduced mobility to participate in recreational and competitive sports.

    There are many sports that people with physical disabilities can participate in: basketball, rugby, tennis, cycling, hiking, skiing or track and field. The latter was one of the first Paralympic sports and is now among the most popular.

    Sport wheelchairs are very different from regular manual or electric wheelchairs. Athletes with disabilities also have a standard chair for everyday life and a competition chair for their sport.

    Competition wheelchairs are lighter and easier to handle than traditional ones. They have a smaller seat and no armrests or headrests to allow for a greater range of movement. In many cases, they have tires adapted to the sporting venue, whether this is a gym or an outdoor field. The wheels are generally tilted to allow for better speed management, the chassis is narrower and reinforced while the seat can be tilted differently.

    Wheelchair racing requires the acquisition of specific equipment such as a rigid frame mounted on three wheels, and essential accessories such as a helmet and gloves. For wheelchair or handbike cycling, a manually propelled three-wheeled vehicle is also required, complete with elements for propulsion (chainrings, derailleurs, cranks) and braking (handle and brake levers).

  • What special features can a wheelchair have?

    The daily life of a person with reduced mobility presents many challenges that some wheelchairs can help to overcome:

    Permobil stand-up wheelchair

    • Stand-up chairs: they allow people who cannot walk to stand upright, which improves breathing, digestion, urinary transit and maintains cardiovascular balance, among other things. Being able to stand is also useful for reaching objects placed on the top shelf or tall furniture and for being at the height of other people, which is good for social interactions and morale.
    • Stair-climbing wheelchairs: when they were invented, these wheelchairs represented a small revolution in the sector by removing a major obstacle to people with reduced mobility.
    • Voice or eye movement controlled wheelchairs: most of these chairs are still in the research stage. They are equipped with systems that can adapt to the person’s degree of disability and fatigue and respond to vocal commands or blinking eyes. In many cases, to train the wheelchair, it is necessary to show it the premises where it will be used beforehand by saying the name of each important destination. The wheelchair can then save the data in order to be able to transport the user to his or her destination the next time, with a simple voice command. Some “intelligent” wheelchairs are equipped with an obstacle detection system composed of sensors and a navigation algorithm that allows the chair to slow down or stop if necessary.
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1 comment
  • Zoe Campos says:

    Thanks for telling me that we should consider what kind of comfort is needed by the individual before buying a chair for him. My grandfather is having a hard time moving around and sitting on normal furniture, so we’re thinking that buying wheelchairs or lift chair recliners might be beneficial to him. I hope we can find a nearby store where we can consult experts on what is the best choice for his situation.

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