Buyers Guide to Wheelchairs

For people who suffer from mobility impairments, wheelchairs are a welcome relief. They not only help to solve the issue of limited mobility but also enhance the user’s quality of life. Thus, it is obvious that wheelchairs are essential additions to the lives of people who suffer from mobility impairments.

However, buying the right type of wheelchair can be complicated. For starters, you would need to have an in-depth knowledge of the different types available and their specifications. There are also important factors to consider before buying one for yourself or your loved one.

We understand that this may be overwhelming for you and as such, we’ve outlined an easy-to-follow guide on the different types of wheelchairs and how to make the right choice.

What are the Different Types of Wheelchairs?

Wheelchairs are classified into two broad categories: manual wheelchairs and power wheelchairs. However, these categories have sub-models under them.

Manual wheelchairs require effort on the part of the user or the carer. These wheelchairs are usually propelled either by the carer or the user.

On the other hand, power wheelchairs typically come with a motor and a rechargeable battery, just as the name suggests. This type of wheelchair requires very minimal effort from the user as it is propelled by a hand control on the armrest.

Let’s take a look at the different models of wheelchairs available:

Travel/ Transit Wheelchair

These wheelchairs are typically lightweight and foldable, and this makes them perfect for traveling. It serves as a secondary option for people who can’t use their standard wheelchairs or mobility aids. For instance, when you cannot travel with your standard wheelchair due to convenience-related issues, you can always use a travel wheelchair. It works just as well and is a great option for people who just need to use a wheelchair for a short time.

These wheelchairs usually come with small wheels and foldable frames that make it easy for them to be lifted and stored in the boot of a car.

Self-propelled Wheelchair

A self-propelled wheelchair is typically pushed and controlled by the user. However, in some cases, it is pushed with the assistance of a carer.

For people who want to move around at home without assistance, this wheelchair is an excellent option. It also comes with a lightweight frame just like the travel wheelchair. However, it is sturdier and can have an adjustable height and backrest to suit the user’s body frame.

Self-propelled wheelchairs also come with adjustable handles to maximize the carer’s comfort when pushing.

Powered Wheelchair

When it comes down to comfort and independence, powered wheelchairs are at the top of the competition. They provide users with maximum comfort and convenience. Also known as motorised or electric wheelchairs, the powered wheelchair comes with a joystick on the armrest for controlling the speed and direction.

Navigating slopes with this wheelchair is quite easy, thanks to the presence of a motor.

Usually, a powered wheelchair lets users go about their daily activities with ease and at walking speed. They are built with a compact design for indoor use and can be disassembled easily for journeys or trips.

Is a Wheelchair Right for You?

If you are struggling with mobility and can only take a few unassisted steps before resting, then you may need a wheelchair. However, you may need to consult a doctor and undergo a medical examination or see an occupational therapist. During the examination, your mobility limitations will be evaluated to decide if you do need a wheelchair.

Usually, wheelchairs will be beneficial to you if you have limited mobility but are physically capable of operating one unassisted. But this is usually left for a doctor or health care provider to decide.

Whether one is suffering from short-term limited mobility or long-term disability, getting a wheelchair will be beneficial. This mobility device provides users with independence and a certain level of freedom. Depending on the type and design, wheelchairs can be used indoors or even on rough terrains. They can also be used temporarily by people who are recovering from injuries or operations.

Although wheelchairs are helpful mobility aids, it all boils down to personal choice at the end of the day. A wheelchair may be right for you, but you get to decide if you want to use one or not.

What to Consider Before Getting a Wheelchair

When it comes to getting a wheelchair, it is important to go with one that will first meet your needs. As a result, it becomes very crucial to consider certain factors before going ahead to buy any wheelchair at all. For starters, the first step to take is to consult a doctor or physiotherapist about your requirements. They will help you understand all that is required, and how you can make the most of it. Once this is done, you can then go on to consider other factors such as:

● Mobility limitations: If you’re buying a wheelchair for mobility impairments, the obvious key factor to consider is your mobility limitations. For certain people, additional assistance is needed even when a wheelchair is thrown into the mix. Thus, the extent of your mobility limitations will determine the kind of wheelchair to get or if you should even use a wheelchair at all. Usually, a self-propelled wheelchair is an ideal option for people who want to enjoy a bit of freedom without requiring assistance. However, this type of wheelchair requires upper body strength. So, before choosing this type of wheelchair, you may need to ask yourself: Do I have sufficient upper body strength to operate a manual wheelchair? If you do not, then powered wheelchairs are your best bet.

● Use: Another factor to consider when choosing a wheelchair is when and how you’d be using it. Will you use it all the time or is it merely an addition to other mobility aids? Do you intend to use it both outdoors and indoors? Will you need to navigate small slopes? If you intend to be navigating small slopes and ramps, you may want to use a powered wheelchair. Thanks to their motor, they can easily be used to go down slopes and similar declines.

● Storage: This is another important yet often overlooked factor. Do you intend to store your wheelchair at home? Or do you intend to travel with it? Many wheelchairs are bulky and rigid so they cannot be folded before storage. If you’d be traveling frequently, this type of wheelchair can be a nightmare. As such, a flexible lightweight wheelchair will be an ideal option. We hope that considering these vital factors will help you make the right decision when choosing a wheelchair.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Long Do Wheelchair Batteries Last?

If you use a powered wheelchair, the concept of battery life will definitely be a primary concern. You don’t want your wheelchair to suddenly die on you in the middle of your daily activities. For brand new motorized wheelchair batteries that have been fully charged, one can usually complete all their daily activities and still have battery remaining, as the batteries will usually allow you to travel approximately 20km per day.
However, the general battery health tends to decline after continuous use. Over time, you may discover that your fully charged battery does not last as long or cover as many kilometres.
The battery of a power wheelchair can last between 6 months to 2 years before requiring a replacement depending on how it is used. However, we recommend that you change the batteries every eighteen months in order to enjoy maximum power.

How Do I Get a Wheelchair?

Usually, you can get a wheelchair through two routes. The first is through a health assessment. You would need to visit your health care professional, often an occupational therapist, who can help determine what kind of wheelchair would best suit you needs and identify any funding available for your wheelchair.
The second route to getting a wheelchair involves going to a brick-and-mortar store or a reputable online store such as GTK.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Wheelchair?

The cost of a wheelchair may vary depending on several factors such as its upfront cost, necessary modifications, accessories and cost of maintenance. As there are different makes, types, models, and styles of wheelchairs, so do the prices differ.
Generally, the manual types cost less than the power wheelchairs while the heavy-duty ones cost considerably more. A standard manual wheelchair may cost around $500 to $1000 with the cheapest ones being around $300. The price may be influenced by the features of the chair such as the type of wheel, the weight of the frame and if it has individualized seats. Custom wheelchairs can cost $7000. Power wheelchairs, on the other hand, may cost anything from $4000 to $12,000, and up to $30,000 for the high-end versions which include features like tilt-in-space, recline and seat elevation.
However, while these are the prices on the average, they may vary to great extents depending on the type of wheelchair and the features needed for the individual.

How Do I Choose a Wheelchair Size?

The size of a wheelchair is greatly dependent on the seat size (width and depth), the arm type and height, the back height, the footrest style, and its floor to seat height. We often talk in inches rather than centimetres when discussing wheelchair measurements, as most wheelchair manufacturers measure their wheelchairs in inches.
In terms of seat size, the width alongside the depth directly influences the size of a wheelchair. On average, a seat width can be 18 inches, however, it can range anywhere from 8-24 inches depending on the specific wheelchair. The depth is the distance from the front edge of the seat to the backrest.
Thus, when trying to choose a wheelchair size it is important to take these factors into consideration. The bigger the seat width and depth, the bigger the wheel size, layout and other features of the entire wheelchair will be, however it is important to get the correct size for your body even if the wheelchair footprint will be slightly larger. Your GTK Consultant can help determine the best size wheelchair for your needs.

What are the Best Wheelchairs?

Actually, there is no one wheelchair that fits all. Thus, the best wheelchairs are those that meet the exact needs of the users, fit their budget and integrate well into their lifestyle. For example, a travel/transit wheelchair best meets the need of a traveller or a highly active individual whereas, it might not meet that of a sportsman or woman.
There are so many wheelchairs available, and this makes deciding which one to go with a daunting task. If you’ve never purchased one or are looking to get something quite different from your old one, you can talk to experts at GTK. They will help narrow your search and choose a chair that will be of utmost benefit to you.

How to Care for Your Wheelchair?

Getting a wheelchair is one thing, maintaining it is another and it is just as important. If you own a wheelchair, you definitely need to take care of it so that it lasts for as long as possible. Here are some key maintenance tips that you can follow regularly:
● Clean the chair regularly with a soft, damp cloth to get rid of debris and any stains.
● Always check your wheels for loose nuts and bolts.
● Check the wheel alignment.
● Always check the tire pressure.
Following these maintenance tips will help prolong the lifespan of your mobility aid, keep it serviceable and prevent unnecessary expenses in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Buying the right wheelchair requires a lot of consideration and thought. You don’t want to end up buying the wrong wheelchair. Fortunately, we’ve created an insightful buying guide that will help you make the right decision. You can also consult with an expert at GTK for all your mobility-related issues. Contact us today!
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