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Choosing a New Wheelchair

When it comes to wheelchairs, there is nothing more important than making sure the chair is a perfect fit for its owner. If any one element of the chair is too long, too short, too wide or too skinny, it can become incredibly uncomfortable for the owner, especially over time

In some respects, a wheelchair is much like an automobile or a pair of shoes. It provides the interface between the body and the world around it. Like shoes, a proper fit is essential if a person is to maximize her/his potential and feel comfortable moving around in the world
An Occupational Therapy professional knowledge and experience can be very helpful in assisting you to select the best chair for you. The aim of occupational therapy is to enable you to live as independently as possible, occupational therapists have specialist knowledge and can advise you on disability equipment, housing adaptations and adaptations to the workplace.

Once an individual's needs have been determined, the next step is to choose the "right" chair. New wheelchair users may wish to talk with current chair users about their likes and dislikes. There is nothing like practical experience to provide feedback on specific features that may be desirable, as well as those that should be avoided.

Wheelchair Assessment

Many physical and medical factors are evaluated in the assessment and prescription of wheelchairs

While most people actively engage in all sorts of assessments throughout their daily life, a detailed assessment, (a so called wheelchair assessment) conducted in order to enable the best 'fit' possible to be found for someone wanting a wheelchair, is along process. Wheelchair assessment is usually undertaken by therapists - they may be either occupational therapists or physiotherapists - who have specialised in this work and undertaken specific training for it.
Such an assessment is very detailed and structured to include all the following aspects of the match between user and wheelchair:

The user's
- physical strengths and limitations
- size, weight and balance
- sensory faculties
- posture and long term effects of it
- intellectual and metal capabilities
- occupation and its demands upon the chair
- mobility requirements such as
- how far it has to go over a period of time
- whether or not it will be carried by a car

Environment factors
- the surfaces on which the chair will be used
- the gradients (up and down) it will have to go
- the spaces in which it will be used in e.g. bathroom
- the access there is to places the user visits
- the manner of its storage
- social considerations such as
- the physique and the fitness of an attendant/helper
- what effect the use of a chair will have on the user's home and social life
- relationships between the wheelchair user and helpers
- opportunities open to the user with added mobility and independence
- financial position

The wheelchair

- cost
- size in relation to the user's environment
- type of controls - manual or electric
- extra adjustments e.g. reclining back, folding chair, leg rests
- weight and bulkiness
- tyre type e.g. pneumatic, puncture proof or solid
- maintenance requirements
- upholstery, cushions and seating additions
- wheel arrangements

Once an individual's needs have been determined, the next step is to choose the "right" chair. New wheelchair users may wish to talk with current chair users about their likes and dislikes. There is nothing like practical experience to provide feedback on specific features that may be desirable, as well as those that should be avoided.

Wheelchair Parts Guide

1. Footrest: The footrests, which are also called footplates and footpedals, can be adjusted to accommodate different lengths and can also be rotated.
2. Legrest: The legrest extends from the front of the wheelchair and the footrest is attached to the legrest
3. Frame: The frame is the heaviest part of the wheelchair and it can weigh up to 20 kg
4. Parking Brakes: The brakes are located on the large rear wheels. They are typically located on the front of the wheel next to the bottom of the seat.
5. Tipping Lever: The tipping lever extends from the bottom of the frame and is designed to make it easier to move the wheelchair over obstacles, such as curbs. The person pushing the wheelchair will put weight on the tipping lever, which causes the wheelchair to tip backwards
6. Anti-Tip Casters are not always present on conventional wheelchairs, but they can usually be added. They are designed to prevent the wheelchair from tipping over backwards. In the event that the wheelchair tips over too far, the anti-tip casters make contact with the ground, preventing it from completely tipping over.
7. Caster Wheels: The wheels of a conventional wheelchair are called caster wheels and are typically 8 inches in diameter
8 Crossbars: The crossbars are located under the seat and allow the wheelchair to be easily folded for storage and transportation. There are typically no locks to keep the conventional wheelchair from folding, but instead the weight of the user prevents the wheelchair from being folded.
9. Handrims: The handrims extend outwards from the rear wheel. They are typically chrome plated and are used to propel the wheelchair
image measuring guide

Basic Guide to Determine the Size of the wheelchair

Please note this is a guide only, every wheelchair user is different and we strongly advice that a trained OT or wheelchair services check all measurements

Take measurement while the person is sitting down use a flexible tape measure when taking measurements. You will never get accurate measurements if you try to use a rigid ruler

A. To Determine Seat Width:
Calculate the seat width by the measuring from one side to the other, in inches, the widest points across your hips and thighs as you sit in a normal position, knees slightly apart. Add 1-2 inches to this measurement to allow for comfort. Measure the widest part of the subject's chest. This will usually be from directly under one armpit to the other. This will influence the width of the seat and the backrest

B. To Determine Seat Depth:
To determine the appropriate seat depth for a user- The user should be placed in the best possible seated position that can be obtained. A measurement is taken from the back of the pelvis (furthest part of the buttocks), forward to the back of the knee. Make sure that each leg is measured separately. There are more leg length discrepancies (differences in leg lengths) than you may think. Deduct 2" from the measured length for clearance. A proper wheelchair seat depth will promote improved sitting posture.

C. To Determine Backrest Height:
Measure from the hips to your shoulders, this will determine the height of the seat back

D. To Determine Seat to Floor Height:
Measure from the back of the heel to the back of the knee. This will determine the length of the leg rest extension and influence the seat height. Add a minimum of 2 inches to this measurement to determine seat height. Unless the wheelchair is going to be foot propelled, the footrest needs that much room for clearance.

E. Warnings

Consider the doorways, elevators and ramps that will be encountered on a daily basis. Take quick measurements of these entry ways at your home and place of work. Make sure the wheelchair isn't too wide or too tall to pass through.

Wheelchair assesment should only be done by trained professional, who have specialised in this work and undertaken specific training . A good therapists should be able to, compare wheelchair specifications to find the chair that best fits your needs.

Wheelchair Terminology Explained

Transit WheelchairThese wheelchairs have small sized rear wheels and restrict the occupant from turning the wheelchair himself.
Attendant Controlled Wheelchair A wheelchair that is controlled by the carer such as a transit wheelchair
Self Propelling WheelchairThese have larger rear wheels, which allow the occupant to manoeuvre the wheelchair him/herself.
Tilt-in-space wheelchairs Seat and back angle remain constant at up to 45 degrees, the whole body is moved using leavers controlled by the attendant
Reclining WheelchairsSeat remains parallel to the floor; back reclines up to 90 degrees, Makes it easier to provide personal care, such as catheterization or changing, elevating leg rests are needed that can be raised, this are not always fitted as standard
Rigid Framed WheelchairRigid Framed Wheelchair means that the wheelchair does not fold in the conventional manner
Electric Powered WheelchairsBattery powered wheelchairs usually is significantly heavier than a manual wheelchair
JoystickThe device used to "move" the power chair.
Controller The device that allows joysticks to function. Not all joysticks have a controller.
ArmrestsWhere arms can rest during time spent on power chair.
FootplateWhere feet rest during time spent on the power chair.
Anti-tip WheelsWheels that allow slight tipping, or prevent tipping while driving.
Drive Wheelwheels that move the power chair. These are the main wheels.
Caster WheelThe front wheels, the smaller the size and narrower the castors are the higher is the chair's manoeuvrability (negative effect on rough ground)
Controller Harness ConnectorsJoystick cables connect to the power wheelchair.
Free Wheel LeversL-Shaped levers at the top rear part of the cover.
Wheelchair CamberDepending on the wheelchairs frame the angle present on rear wheels is called the camber

What is a Self-propelling Wheelchair ?

self-propel wheelchair Self-propelling manual wheelchairs are equipped with large rear wheels (20" diameter to 27") used for propelling . If the user intends to propel themselves in the chair using push rims on the rear wheels, they will need to look at 'self propelling' wheelchairs with large back wheels. Whilst these chairs are designed to be used by the chairs occupant, they normally have pushing handles on the back so that someone can push where needed. Indeed, the larger back wheels can be an advantage when being pushed up kerbs or over other obstacles.

What is a Transit ( Attendant ) Wheelchair ?

transit wheelchair Transit chairs are not designed for self-propulsion, they have small rear wheels and may look and function much like a stroller. These chairs places all the emphasis on the attendant and thus some strength of the attendant (the person pushing the chair) is vital to ensure correct and effective use. The user of a transit chair normally does not have the upper body strength to propel themselves. Some of these chairs have been fitted with handbrakes which is an added safety feature.

It is important that once the needs of the user have been met, that the carer's needs are also taken into account. By reducing energy expenditure and increasing the chair's manoeuvrability and transportability, life will be made easier and the risk of back injury minimised. The chair should be easy to transport, versatile, manoeuvrable and easy to steer

Because, these chairs fold compactly to store in the trunk of a car and provide light duty mobility. You may find a transport chair is a convenient back-up to your primary chair, easily folded when not needed, but readily available if your chair breaks down.

What is a Positioning Wheelchair ?

Wheelchair seating system, which may include specialized supportive cushions, backrests, headrests, or trunk, arm and leg supports. Positioning wheelchairs such as Tilt in space or reclining chairs are designed to prevent pressure sores and alleviate pain

The Tilt In Space wheelchair seat and back angle remain constant at up to 45 degrees tilt. Tilt-in-space Wheelchairs are often used by children and adults who have Progressive medical conditions for example: Moderate to severe motor involvement, Poor head and trunk control, Limitations in range of motion, especially hips, Fluctuating muscle tone, Pain or pressure while sitting, Developing curvature of the spine (scoliosis or kyphosis),Limited ability to sit upright, Weakness, lack of endurance, Seizure or sleep disorders.When buying a Tilt-in-space wheelchairs it is important to consider relieve pressure cushion and contoured seating inserts Reclining Wheelchair

What is Rigid Frame Chair?

Rigid Framed Wheelchair means that the wheelchair does not fold in the conventional manner but the rear wheels are removed and/or the backrest folded, for the wheelchair to be put into a vehicle. Rigid frame chairs are at least three times more manoeuvrable and at least half the frame weight of folding framed wheelchairs to lift. unfortunately they are also very expensive and should only be purchase after a full assessment by a trained OT

Electric Powered Wheelchairs

Every new wheelchair user will have different features and needs in mind. You will find it helpful to consult with your doctor or occupational therapist before making your first purchase. Your wheelchair purchase should take your age, gender, body type (weight/size) and any physical specifications - such as level of endurance, missing limbs and body limitations - into consideration.

powerchairs Consider also how much the equipment will be used, whether indoors or outdoors, and in what situations. For many users, neck support, armrests and/or footrests will be required. Our Powerchairs offer quality and value for money

People who use powered wheelchairs generally have limited strength in their arms, and thus need to use an external power source to enable them to get around. Powered wheelchairs use either gel cell or wet cell batteries that must be re-charged on a regular basis. A powered wheelchair usually is significantly heavier than a manual wheelchair to accommodate both the weight of the battery and the weight of additional adaptive equipment, such as body supports or respiratory equipment.

Power Wheelchairs have Front wheel, Mid wheel and Rear wheel drive options, they are controlled through a joystick or an alternate control device and available with multiple seating options. The joysticks can general be fitted to suit a right or left handed user, some powerchairs also offer a dual control for attendant use.The level of sophistication in electric wheelchairs varies widely, from just using standard batteries and a joy stick controller, right up to using microprocessor

Front-wheel drive models offer good indoor maneuverability but tend to fishtail at higher speeds
Mid-wheel drive chairs are excellent for indoor maneuverability. The small models are good for use in apartments and nursing homes
Rear-wheel drive power wheelchairs are not as maneuverable as the mid-wheel drive electric wheelchair, but are stable and well suited for active all around use

If you opt for an electric wheelchair, find out the type of batteries used and how long they last. Ease of servicing/repair and availability of parts are other matters not to be overlooked. Manufacturers are required to keep spare parts in stock, however if their distributors go bust it is very difficult to get parts

Power Wheelchairs vs. Manual Wheelchairs

Power WheelchairsManual Wheelchairs
Powered by a battery - Less physical exertionLightweight - easier to push (transit chair)
Easily go uphill - Manual chairs could have difficultyUnlimited Range
No need for someone to assist youEasier to transport and to manoeuvre
FreedomAllow for more physical activity
Before buying any equipment for your child it is best to seek specialist advice,
It is very important that the needs of the carer are taken into consideration when purchasing any equipment. For example if you want to purchase a wheelchair:
  • The size and weight of the type and model of wheelchair you consider will be important - for pushing it, particularly up and down kerbs and steps,
  • If you have pour sight dark colours could made it difficult to see where parts and catches are
  • Try folding and putting up any wheelchair you are thinking about - the more straightforward the better.
  • Storage space, does the wheelchair fit into your car
  • Where are you planning on using the chair, not all wheelchair are suitable for off road usage for example, if you want to use the chair on the beach

Walkers

It is important to select a frame that matches the individual's requirements so that it is comfortable to use. The main factors to consider are your height, weight and how stable you are, remember your limitations , for example do you have the strengths, in your hands to use the brake

Understanding the jargon can be a big problem !

walkers info Many people ask what is a rollator? A rollator is essentially a walker with tires, it combines an adjustable height walking frame with small wheels, rather than lifting the walker to move, you just push why not have a look at our range of walkers
The Just Good Prices website is not a substitute for independent professional advice and users should obtain any appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances. Any information and guides appearing on www.just-good-prices.co.uk website are issued as general information and do not constitute a warranty by Just Good Prices Ltd or any other organisation, nor should it be taken as advice.