When Choosing a Wheelchair

Following is a list of things to consider when you are choosing a wheelchair.

Choosing a Vendor:

  • Do you have a local vendor who knows about wheelchairs?
  • What local (or other) vendors are recommended by people you know who use wheelchairs?
  • Does the vendor service the chairs they sell?
  • Will they come to your home to provide service? Or do you have to take the chair to the vendor?

Financial Issues:

  • How will you pay for the chair?
  • Can the vendor help you find funding if needed?
  • What wheelchair features does your insurer consider to be “medically necessary”?
  • Features not considered to be “medically necessary” may not be covered.

Wheelchair Size / Shape / Versatility:

  • How long is the chair?
  • How wide is it?
  • How much does it weigh?
  • Does the chair fold? Does it need to?

Wheelchair Maintainence:

  • Who will clean and maintain the chair at home? At school? (Sometimes power chairs are left at school.)
  • Is it “growable”? If not, how long will the person be able to use it?

Using the Wheelchair:

  • Who will be pushing the chair? Would taller push handles be helpful?
  • Who will be lifting the chair?
  • Can the chair be used in all environments – home, school, job, community?
  • Will ramps be needed at these locations? If so, who will provide them?

Traveling with the Wheelchair:

  • Will the person ride in the chair in the family automobile? School bus or van? Other vehicles?
  • Will the person have enough headroom in each vehicle?
  • Are tie downs needed for those vehicles? If so, who will provide them?
  • Are ramps or lifts needed for those vehicles? If so, who will provide them?

Wheelchair Frame:

  • Is it lightweight, for easy pushing and lifting?
  • Is it heavy duty, for use by a person who weighs more than 250 pounds, has severe tone issues, or is very active?
  • Does it have a “tilt-in-space” frame?
  • Does it have a reclining frame?
  • Is it low to the floor, so that the user has enough head space when riding in a van and/or transfer safely and easily?
  • Is it able to support attachments, such as oxygen tank, ventilator, suction machine, or mounting system for a communication device?

Wheelchair Armrests:

  • Are they removable for easier transfers?
  • Is the height adjustable to support a lap tray?
  • Does the desk length to allow getting close to tables and desks?
  • Are they able to flip back so it is easier to reach wheels?

Wheelchair Leg / Foot Supports:

  • Are they removable?
  • Do the swing-away to assist in transferring?
  • Are they able to be elevated?
  • Do they provide with a fixed front end for users with excessive tone?

Wheelchair Foot Plates:

  • Is the angle adjustable?
  • Are they extra large?
  • Are they metal or high-density plastic?
  • Do they provide with heel or toe loops? Do they flip-up?

Wheelchair Wheels:

  • Are the rear wheels 12″, 20″, or 24″ size?
  • Are there solid, semi-pneumaticor pneumatic tires?
  • Are they equipped with hand rims for self-wheelers?
  • Are there front casters? Are they 5″, 6″, or 8″ size?

Why Use Special Seating?

  • Supports the pelvis
  • Solid, firm seats provide a stable surface for the pelvis
  • Contoured seat helps to center pelvis
  • Anti–thrust seats help keep the pelvis from sliding forward
  • Hip guides and abductors help align hips and thighs
  • Gel seats, air-filled cushions or special foams help prevent pressure sores
  • Lap belts are used to keep hips back on the seat
  • Supports the trunk
  • Firm, solid backrest supports the trunk from behind and discourages rounded postur
  • Contouring of the backrest may be needed to add lumbar support