Considerations When Buying a Wheelchair

Wheelchairs come in many different forms and selecting the right one for you, your child or someone you care for can be a difficult process.

The first step is to consider in detail exactly why the wheelchair is needed.

Is it for getting around the home, at school, in the workplace, on one level, outside, indoors and will it be necessary to transport the chair itself?

All of these questions, and possibly a few others, should be answered before you buy.

Will the chair be self-propel or be pushed?
Whether the user will turn the wheels themselves or will be pushed determines the height and type of wheels, as well as the weight of the chair.

For example, if you have a tiny 2-year-old who can self-propel, you may want to consider a frame that allows the large wheels to be put closer to the front, where small arms can more easily reach them.

The wheels will need to be relatively small and the frame low, so that the child is at eye-level with other toddlers.

Will the chair be rigid or folding?
There are three types of frames to choose from, each with advantages and disadvantages. Before making your choice, consider your transportation needs.

If the chair needs to fit in the boot or back seat of a car, it must collapse easily.

Foldable chairs have more flexible frames, giving them a smoother ride on slightly uneven surfaces (all four wheels stay on the ground).

However, they are generally heavier than rigid frames, which usually perform better on hard surfaces. Consider will lift the chair, how often, and what weight can be managed.

If the user is unable to sit upright due to low tone, seizures or other problems, a chair with a frame that tilts back is required.

Do you need maneuverability or stability?
If the user has good trunk control and will use the chair for sports, you will need one that is easy to manoeuvre, with a tight turning radius and ability to tip. That is because active riders like to tip the chair, with a small shift of weight, into a wheelie.

Others feel more secure in a stable chair, with a broader base of support and lower center of gravity.

Stability is also essential for users who rock or make other self-stimulating movements that could accidentally tip over a chair.

Where will the chair be used?
Where the wheelchair will be used determines the type and size of tyres. Pneumatic (air-filled) tyres are best for any environment are air-filled, because they deliver the smoothest ride, absorbing the shocks of bumps.

Some people prefer not to you use pneumatic tyres because their pressure needs to be monitored and they may need regular re-fills.

If a chair will be used primarily indoors, solid tires with an insert that prevents flats are available. 

For riding over rough outdoor terrain, large tires with a greater surface area and thick treads make for a more comfortable ride.

How will the user get in and out?
Does the seat height need to be low to the ground to encourage independence in getting in and out, or higher to aid a caregiver who will lift the user? 

Swing-away legrests can make independent and standing transfers easier, as they give the child ready access to the ground.

In addition to considering the needs of the user and/or care giver, it is helpful to know about some of the key wheelchair parts and associated features.

Browse our range of wheelchairs

Browse wheelchair and scooter accessories

Browse wheelchair and scooter ramps

Wheelchairs come in many different forms and selecting the right one for you, your child or someone you care for can be a difficult process.

The first step is to consider in detail exactly

...

Is it for getting around the home, at school, in the workplace, on one level, outside, indoors and will it be necessary to transport the chair itself?

All of these questions, and possibly a few others, should be answered before you buy.

Will the chair be self-propel or be pushed?
Whether the user will turn the wheels themselves or will be pushed determines the height and type of wheels, as well as the weight of the chair.

For example, if you have a tiny 2-year-old who can self-propel, you may want to consider a frame that allows the large wheels to be put closer to the front, where small arms can more easily reach them.

The wheels will need to be relatively small and the frame low, so that the child is at eye-level with other toddlers.

Will the chair be rigid or folding?
There are three types of frames to choose from, each with advantages and disadvantages. Before making your choice, consider your transportation needs.

If the chair needs to fit in the boot or back seat of a car, it must collapse easily.

Foldable chairs have more flexible frames, giving them a smoother ride on slightly uneven surfaces (all four wheels stay on the ground).

However, they are generally heavier than rigid frames, which usually perform better on hard surfaces. Consider will lift the chair, how often, and what weight can be managed.

If the user is unable to sit upright due to low tone, seizures or other problems, a chair with a frame that tilts back is required.

Do you need maneuverability or stability?
If the user has good trunk control and will use the chair for sports, you will need one that is easy to manoeuvre, with a tight turning radius and ability to tip. That is because active riders like to tip the chair, with a small shift of weight, into a wheelie.

Others feel more secure in a stable chair, with a broader base of support and lower center of gravity.

Stability is also essential for users who rock or make other self-stimulating movements that could accidentally tip over a chair.

Where will the chair be used?
Where the wheelchair will be used determines the type and size of tyres. Pneumatic (air-filled) tyres are best for any environment are air-filled, because they deliver the smoothest ride, absorbing the shocks of bumps.

Some people prefer not to you use pneumatic tyres because their pressure needs to be monitored and they may need regular re-fills.

If a chair will be used primarily indoors, solid tires with an insert that prevents flats are available. 

For riding over rough outdoor terrain, large tires with a greater surface area and thick treads make for a more comfortable ride.

How will the user get in and out?
Does the seat height need to be low to the ground to encourage independence in getting in and out, or higher to aid a caregiver who will lift the user? 

Swing-away legrests can make independent and standing transfers easier, as they give the child ready access to the ground.

In addition to considering the needs of the user and/or care giver, it is helpful to know about some of the key wheelchair parts and associated features.

Browse our range of wheelchairs

Browse wheelchair and scooter accessories

Browse wheelchair and scooter ramps

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