A manual wheelchair is more than just a mobility device. For an individual who needs one, it is the gateway for their social, employment and leisure engagement. A well set up manual wheelchair can be equally important in giving independence in the areas of self-care, transfers, driving, posture management and other functional goals relevant to the individual.
We describe good posture as a position that provides a carriage way for us to use our arms and legs in a purposeful way. A good manual wheelchair should support our carriage way but hide in the background. A customised wheelchair will offer a “tailored fit” for individuals thus addressing mobility needs, improve comfort and add a touch of personal style. Ultimately, allowing individuals to be better equipped to handle any activity they wish.
Benefits of a Customised Wheelchair A customised wheelchair may seem like an expensive proposition, but it can offer individuals a renewed quality of life and confidence not available from off-the-shelf models. Many customisation options are cheaper than you may think. There may also be extra factors that necessitate a customisation. Below are just some of the benefits to considering
Individualised Solution – tailoring a wheelchair to individual goals and body measurements will ensure its purpose is always being met. The wheelchair will perform as it is intended increasing its longevity. When building a wheelchair to fit, you notice the individual first and not the frame around them.
- Comfort – an ill-fitting wheelchair can lead to postural problems and place greater risk of pressure related injuries. If it does not fit, it cannot be comfortable. Therefore more time and energy is spent on getting comfortable and not the functional activities one does. For individuals who may have balance, fatigue or strength issues, exerting additional energy to hold their posture may result in a loss of independence in certain activities.
- Independence in transfers – getting in and out of the wheelchair can often determine how much attendant care support is needed. Activities such as driving, swimming at the local pools and catching a plane may only be possible if one can be independent in their transfers. So, whether it is the ability to swing leg rests away to stand or setting the right height to slide out of the wheelchair, customising the manual wheelchair to give independence in transfers is critical.
- Personal Style - Customising a wheelchair to fit your own personal style can help to make you feel more comfortable with the equipment. This can be especially important with new individuals including children who will still be adjusting to the change and may already be feeling self-conscious. Cosmetic customisations as simple as coloured accessories may promote confidence and improved self-identity.
- Specialist Activities - Beyond the everyday wheelchair, individuals may need a custom frame to participate in a wide variety of sport and recreation activities. The choices are endless with everything from chairs designed for manoeuvrability and speed, to chairs while larger castors and BMX style wheels for beach and off-road use.
- Carer Adaptions – Not all customisation options will be tailored for the individual using the wheelchair. For individuals who cannot self-propel or rely on others for support, addressing the attendant’s requirements will assist in enabling the individual to be as independent as possible. Care adaptations may include height adjustable push handles, attendant brakes or a folding frame for car transport.