A wheelchair is a wheeled mobility device in which the user sits on and is able to be mobile. The device is propelled either manually (by turning the wheels by the hand) or via various automated systems such as electric motors. Wheelchairs are used by people for whom walking is difficult or impossible due to illness (physiological or physical), injury, or disability.
A wheelchair assists people to become more mobile and independent. There are many different types of wheelchairs that are used for various reasons. It is important to understand the limitations and safe operation of whatever wheelchair you choose.
The chair seat size (width and depth), seat-to-floor height, footrests/leg rests, front caster outriggers, adjustable backrests, controls, and many other features can be customized on, or added to, many basic models, while some users, often those with specialized needs, may have wheelchairs custom-built.
Manual Wheelchair Information Guide
A manual wheelchair is one that is propelled by the user. It is usually done by pushing on round bars that surround the wheels. This wheelchair also has handles on the back so it can be pushed by another person. A manual wheelchair is easy to maintain, is lightweight, and is the least expensive to buy.
Electric wheelchairs are propelled by a motor and battery. They are very sophisticated. They are operated with a joy stick or push buttons. Some electric wheelchairs use advanced technology and can climb up stairs, move across gravel and even raise up to give access to high shelves. Electric wheelchairs need strong frames to support the motor and battery so they are very heavy and also quite expensive. The average cost of an electric wheelchair is $7000 but can fall anywhere from $3000 to $30,000.
As the name suggests, sports wheelchairs are designed for playing sports. They are ultra lightweight yet very stable. They are often used for tennis, wheelchair basketball, and marathons
Power chair Football and Power Soccer Wheelchairs
A new sport has been developed for power chair users called power chair football or power soccer. It is the only competitive team sport for powerchair users.
A standing wheelchair is one that supports the user in a standing position. They can be used as both a wheelchair and a standing frame, allowing the user to sit or stand in the wheelchair. They will move from sitting to standing with a hydraulic pump or electric-powered assist.
Pediatric wheelchairs are both in manual and electric form. They are just smaller scale down versions of the larger adult wheelchairs. These are usually adjustable so they can grow with the child and expand to accommodate increased weight and bulk as the child grows.
or All Terrain Wheelchairs allow users to enter the water and provide a better mobility in the sand. There are lots of different models available. In many countries in Europe where the Accessible Tourism is well set, many beaches are wheelchair accessible and provide this kind of wheelchairs to clients free of charge.
3 wheeled wheelchairs are not a new concept and have frequently been used in the design of racing wheelchairs, tennis wheelchairs, and other sports as well as everyday all purpose wheelchairs. These wheelchairs are more stable and maneuverable over rough terrain than a four-wheel wheelchair.
Recent technological advances are slowly improving wheelchair and EPW technology. Some wheelchairs, such as the iBOT, incorporate gyroscopic technology and other advances, enabling the chair to balance and run on only two of its four wheels on some surfaces, thus raising the user to a height comparable to a standing person.
They can also incorporate stair-climbing and four-wheel-drive feature motorized assists for hand-powered chairs are becoming more available and advanced.
Yes, there is such a thing as wheelchairs for dogs. They were created to help handicapped and injured dogs regain their mobility. Many times, the problem is hip displacement or a spinal cord injury that leaves the dog with no control over his back legs.
Anytime you are in the market for a wheelchair, no matter what type you are looking for, it is a good idea to do some comparison shopping.
Different wheelchairs come with different capabilities and different prices as well. You will want to make sure you get a good deal for your money and end up with the best wheelchair for the person who will be using it.
The cost of a manual wheelchair can vary from $475 – $7,600, this variation in price depends on what the wheelchair is made from, and if it is a built to measure (bespoke design) design, or “standard design.
There are many materials a wheelchair can be made from which include:
- Carbon Fibre
Rigid Frame Wheelchairs
Generally, a rigid frame wheelchair will consist of a welded frame on which the person sits. The back of the chair has the ability to fold down, and the wheels have a quick release mechanism to enable easy transportation and storage of the wheelchair.
Most rigid frame wheelchairs are made from either aluminium or titanium, but there are some specialist wheelchairs made from carbon fibre. A lightweight rigid frame wheelchair can weigh as little as 10lbs without it’s wheels. As the chair is lighter, it will be easier to push, therefore putting less stress on your shoulder joints.
As rigid frame wheelchairs have less moving parts, they are generally stronger than folding wheelchairs and last longer.
Folding Frame Wheelchairs
A folding frame wheelchair is a wheelchair whose frame is collapsible sideways by the use of an X mechanism in the frame. This mechanism is lockable, and the wheelchair folds on release of two locking levers on the chair.
Because the folding wheelchair has an X mechanism, locking levers and re-enforcing struts, it is usually more heavy than a rigid frame wheelchair. Folding wheelchairs also have movable footrests which allow the chair to collapse. Early folding chairs were made from steel, but now days they are made from aluminium or titanium.
As there are more moving parts in the folding chair, and movable joints, the chair is not as durable as a rigid frame wheelchair. This in turn will mean a higher maintenance is required to keep the wheelchair in good condition.
Rigid Versus Folding Wheelchairs
By Dr. Gene Emmer
Did you ever notice that you never see a disabled athlete competing in a folding wheelchair? The reason is increased performance of rigid wheelchairs. All athletes seek to optimize performance. But performance is not only important for sports wheelchairs, it is important for active everyday users as well. A well designed rigid wheelchair becomes part of the body of a disabled user allowing easier access and freedom of movement. What are the features of a rigid wheelchair that give superior performance?
- Reduced Maintenance and Weight: Folding chairs have lots of movable parts that undergo strain. These parts must often be regularly adjusted or replaced to keep the chair in alignment. Because of this strain, thicker walled aluminium is required and therefore the wheelchairs are usually heavy. Rigid wheelchairs have fewer movable parts and fewer things to go wrong. Rigid wheelchairs are generally more durable and age better than folding wheelchairs.
- Much of the energy from the push on the wheels is lost in the flexing parts of the folding wheelchair. Since the rigid wheelchair has fewer movable parts, most of the energy from the push on the wheels is translated into forward motion. In short, the rigid wheelchair may be easier to push than a folding wheelchair.
- Due to the need to fold, the folding wheelchair design might not be optimized for performance. For example, the casters of the folding wheelchair are usually placed well behind the foot-rest, in order to allow the wheelchair to close properly. This design puts a lot of weight on the casters. With the rigid wheelchair, the distance between the footrest and casters is usually much shorter; placing more of the weight on the rear wheels. Less weight on the casters makes the rigid wheelchair easier to turn.
- Because rigid wheelchairs are lighter and more manuverable than folding wheelchairs they, perform better, that is, they are easier for the user to move in. But this is not an advantage only for athletes. Imagine a wheelchair user going up a wheelchair ramp without assistance. This can be more difficult in a heavy folding chair, than in a manuverable, ultra-light, which can be lighter by 10kg or more.
- In summary, due to weight, design, and fewer moving parts, the performance of a rigid wheelchair is usually better than a folding wheelchair. This difference may become even more noticeable as the wheelchairs age.
Performance is only one of the advantages of a rigid wheelchair over folding wheelchairs. Below is a partial list of advantages of rigid wheelchairs over folding chairs. Can you think of others?
Better Body Fit (Design): The primary design of a rigid wheelchair is to fit the body of the user. The primary design of a folding wheelchair is to fold. Folding wheelchairs are generally boxy, while rigid wheelchairs conform to the shape of the body. For example, with a rigid chair, one can taper the design to conform to the body shape (large at the hips, narrow at the knees) which can hold the users’ body in place. Also the aluminium between the knees and footrest can be tapered (wider at the knees, narrow at the feet) holding the feet in place. With a folding chair, you can not taper it or it would not close completely.
After Market Adjustments: Rigid wheelchairs generally have more configurations and adjustments then folding chairs. Most folding wheelchairs have limits in their configurations and adjustments. For example, many folding wheelchairs do not allow for adjusting the angle between the backrest and the seat.
Independence: Users can easily make transfers from rigid wheelchairs into some cars independently. With a folding wheelchair, the user usually requires a companion to fold the wheelchair and put it in the car trunk. With some forms of rigid wheelchairs, the user can transfer into the car and from the inside of the car, remove the two wheels, fold down the back rest and bring the wheelchair inside the car and place it either in the back seat or on the floor. An independent transfer would be more difficult in a folding wheelchair.
Esthetics: Some rigid wheelchairs are designed to be attractive. Folding wheelchairs are rarely considered attractive, only functional
What is the advantage of a folding wheelchair? Mainly there is one advantage: a folding chair can be stored in a trunk of an automobile without removing the wheels. Rigid wheelchairs are not for everyone, but many people who are now using folding wheelchairs are better off in a rigid wheelchair.
Who is the right customer for a rigid wheelchair? Someone who:
- Has good upper body strength
- Wants to be independent
- Is young and active (5-50 years)
- Sees their wheelchair as part of their body and not just a piece of furniture
Who is the right customer for a folding chair? Someone who:
- Will never be independent or has no upper body strength
- Has minimal upper body strength or coordination
- Is very young (0-4) or older (60-90)
REMEMBER: A rigid wheelchair is made for the users’ convenience. Folding wheelchairs are made for companions’ convenience. Which would you prefer?
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