- Disabilities & the Disabled
Selecting The Right Type of Wheelchair
Types of WheelchairsClick thumbnail to view full-size
One of the most important mobility vehicles of all time is the wheelchair. Wheelchairs were actually first developed thousands of years ago, but they did not begin to take a standard design until the beginning of the twentieth century.
Today, there are many different kinds of wheelchairs available, so it can seem difficult to choose the right type of wheelchairs. Wheelchairs can be basically broken down into either manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, or mobility scooters.
Since there are several different kinds of wheelchairs and many different models, it is easy to become overwhelmed when deciding what type of wheelchair to use. However, by understanding the physical abilities of the user, their needs, and what they would like to do with their wheelchair, selecting the right type of wheelchair is not so difficult.
Matching the Users Abilities to the Wheelchair
Evaluating the physical abilities of the individual is usually the first step in determining what type of wheelchair will be the best choice. This involves considering the users upper body strength and maneuverability.
For those with limited upper body strength, a manual wheelchair can be very difficult to use. This is because it requires a great deal of effort to use a manual wheelchair and for daily use, it can provide a very strenuous workout.
An electric wheelchair, on the other hand, is operated by only pushing a simple control, so it can be used with very little interaction on the part of the wheelchair user. In addition to the standard joystick control, there are also several other ways that electric wheelchairs can be controlled. These are often referred to as alternate control methods and are designed to allow an individual with limited mobility to control their wheelchair. An example of alternate controls include breath control, which allows the wheelchair user to control the wheelchair by blowing into a small straw like tube.
For those who are able to walk, but do so with difficulty, mobility scooters are often a better choice. Mobility scooters are similar to electric wheelchairs, but have a control arm, called a tiller, which extends from the front of the chair. The tiller controls the electric scooter, but prohibits the device from being driven directly up to a table. As a result, it will be necessary to transfer into and out of the scooter to eat or access a desk.
Considering Where and How the Wheelchair will be Used
Deciding where and how the wheelchair will be used is also an important step in selecting the right type of wheelchair.
For those who wish to play sports, such as wheelchair basketball, a manual wheelchair will be required.Usually special sports wheelchairs are used, although there are some that play lightly in a traditional manual wheelchair. Some people actually prefer sports wheelchairs over traditional manual wheelchairs for everyday use, because of their lighter and more performance based design.
Manual wheelchairs also sometimes provide the user with a little bit more freedom, because they are very lightweight and can be easily folded up when not in use. Most manual wheelchair users are able to get into a vehicle, fold up their wheelchair, and place it in the car without assistance or the use of a wheelchair lift. So, this can not only cut costs, but also offer make traveling easier.
Electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters, however, will likely require a wheelchair lift to raise and lower the device into the vehicle.However, since these types of wheelchairs are electrically powered, they are great for those who will be spending a lot of time away from home or wish to be able to go on extended trips around the neighborhood.
Considering the Cost of Wheelchairs
Cost is another big factor for many, especially those who might not be able to get a Medicare Wheelchair or one that is otherwise covered by insurance.
In most cases, the manual wheelchair is least expensive, followed by mobility scooters, with electric wheelchairs being the most costly. There are of course exceptions to the rule, as some sports wheelchairs can be very expensive.
It is also important to note that even though mobility scooters are less expensive than electric wheelchairs, they do not offer the same advantages for a person who can not walk at all. Instead, for everyday indoor and outdoor use, a mobility scooter would usually require that the person is able to move around a little bit on their own.
However, there are several heavy duty mobility scooters available that are a great deal of fun to drive and great for outdoor use, so some people like to invest in one of these rugged mobility scooters when spending time outdoors.