ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

An Introduction to Manual and Electric Wheelchairs

Updated on April 19, 2009

Wheelchairs are a type of medical device that is used to improve accessibility for people who are mobility challenged. In some form or another, wheelchairs have been used for many thousands of years, but it would not be until the beginning of the twentieth century that a standard wheelchair design would be developed.

Today, there are a number of different wheelchair designs and models available, but they are basically classified as either manual or electric.

This is an example of a conventional wheelchair.
This is an example of a conventional wheelchair.
Note the size of the wheels on this transport wheelchair.
Note the size of the wheels on this transport wheelchair.

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs are the oldest type of wheelchair available and are either classified as self propelled or attendant propelled. One of the first self propelled wheelchairs was developed by a blacksmith over 300 years ago and used a hand crank to move the wheelchair.

Today, there are a number of different types of self propelled manual wheelchairs, which are classified by their uses, but the most common type of manual wheelchair is the conventional wheelchair.

A conventional wheelchair has handrims which are attached to the outside of the rear wheels, which allow the user to turn the rear wheels. The rear wheels are much larger than the front wheels and are typically 24 inches in diameter.

The Conventional wheelchair usually offers a folding design, so it can be easily transported, and has a steel steel tubed frame. However, to reduce weight aluminum and titanium frames are also used. The seat is typically made of vinyl, which is easy to clean.

Attendant propelled wheelchairs, or transport chairs, often look very similar to a self propelled wheelchair, however they do not have handrims on the rear wheels. Instead they are designed to be pushed by someone walking behind the wheelchair. Often the rear wheels will be much smaller than traditional wheelchairs.

This is an example of a Power Chair.
This is an example of a Power Chair.
This portable power chair looks much like a manual wheelchair.
This portable power chair looks much like a manual wheelchair.

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs, which are also called power chairs, were first developed during the middle of the twentieth century. Early electric wheelchairs were simply manual wheelchairs that had been outfitted with an electric motor.

Today, most power chairs feature a molded plastic base, which contains the electric motor and batteries. A chair is attached to the base and resembles a high quality office chair, but usually has a higher back, more padding, and a headrest.

The range varies, but most power chairs can travel up to 10 miles on a single charge. However, environmental factors, such as hills and the riders weight, play a role in the wheelchairs range.

Most use a joystick control, which can be mounted to either the left or right armrest. There are also a great deal number of alternate controls, such as breath control. A remote control system is also available, to offer attendant propelled functionality.

Portable power chairs are also available, which closely resemble a conventional folding wheelchair.

Which Type of Wheelchair is Best

This greatly varies by the needs and abilities of the wheelchair user. Both types of wheelchairs have advantages and disadvantages.

Manual wheelchairs remain incredibly popular and are the first choice of many wheelchair users. Typically a manual wheelchair weighs a great deal less than an electric power chair, making it much easier to transport.

However, manual wheelchairs require a lot deal of upper body strength, which can be an excellent source of exercise. There are also a number of wheelchair sports, like wheelchair racing and wheelchair basketball, which are played using manual wheelchairs.

However. depending on the individuals physical abilities, using a manual wheelchair might not be possible.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)