Picking a wheelchair is a big decision. In many ways, it’s like deciding on a car — you’ll need to choose between standard or automatic transmissions (or manual vs. power wheelchair), select the features and accessories you want the most, and decide if you’ll be comfortable driving it for extended periods of time.
Finding the most comfortable wheelchair requires making some decisions. Here’s a crash course on what you should consider before you commit.
Manual vs. Power Wheelchair
There are many types of wheelchairs, but they all fall into two basic categories: manual or electric (aka power wheelchair). The first decision you’ll have to make is which option best suits your needs.
If you are only in your wheelchair short-term, you only need it part-time; a manual chair may be the best fit. Manual chairs have large, easy-to-grip wheels which you turn to propel yourself.
If you use the chair sparingly when you are on the move, a transfer chair may be appropriate. They have small wheels and a pair of handles for pushing. If your mobility is very limited or you need extra assistance, a power chair may be most suitable.
Storage and Transportation
Another thing to consider is how you will transport and store your chair. How often will you need to transport it? Will it fit in your vehicle?
You may opt for a power chair at home for comfort, and a lighter, more portable chair for when you’re on the go. Some portable models weigh only 20-25 pounds and don’t take up much space once folded.
If you and your new chair are not a good fit, it could cause problems. Not only will you be uncomfortable, but you might not be safe.
If your chair is too big, you could slide around or even slip out. If it’s too small, you could get stuck. Too tall or short could lead to problems transferring in and out of the chair. And if the seat is too deep, it could interfere with the blood flow to your lower legs.
Wheelchairs also have weight limits, and you should choose a model rated for your weight.
Every wheelchair will have a list of various dimensions. Look them over carefully and make sure that you choose a chair with measurements that are appropriate for your size.
Will it Be Comfortable?
Many options can affect how comfortable your chair is and if it suits your daily activities. Arm and footrests may be foldable or even detachable. Some wheelchairs even have leg rests that can be elevated.
Some chairs have pads under the calf for extra comfort. Some have head support while others don’t. Some power chairs let you adjust the tilt to help avoid pressure sores. And with any chair, there are accessories you can purchase to tailor it to your comfort needs, such as contoured cushions or lumbar support.
Before choosing a new chair, make a list of the features you want most. Read all the specifications for the model you’re considering and ensure it fulfills your needs.