Self-Propelled vs Transit Wheelchairs:
Despite their other features, Wheelchairs come in two major propulsion types: self-propelled and transit (or attendant-propelled).
Self-propelled wheelchairs are operated primarily by the user of the chair; they have large wheels connected to the rear of the chair, which have circular handles on them called 'handrims' or 'pushrims'. These allow the user to propel the wheelchair using arm strength as well as stop the chair. They have locking wheel-brakes which keep the chair in place when stationary if desired. Most also have attendant handles on the back of the chair for pushing by an attendant, with hand brakes for added safety.
Self-propelled wheelchairs are ideal for people who live or travel by themselves, those with lower body disability or injury and those recovering from surgery.
Transit or Attendant-propelled wheelchairs are operated primarily by a second-party behind the chair (the attendant). They have handles on the back of the chair for pushing by the attendant, with most having bicycle-style line brakes to stop the chair. They also usually have locking wheel brakes for added security when stopped.
Transit wheelchairs are best for people who have a primary carer, have upper body disability or injury, elderly patients seeking safe short range transport and those recovering from surgery.
The Size of the Wheelchair User:
One of the most important factors to consider, after choosing which type of propulsion style best suits, is the size of the user. As a medical device, a wheelchair must suit the specific user or it risks having reduced or even adverse effect. Using a wheelchair which is suited to the size and weight of the user will increase comfort and support, and reduce the risks of accidents or damage to the user and wheelchair itself.
Seat Height is one major consideration; this is the physical distance from the floor to the seat of the wheelchair. On some wheelchairs, this can be adjusted. It can help to seat yourself on a chair you know is comfortable and supportive, in which you can sit for an extended period of time without discomfort, and measure the distance from floor to seat.
This will give you a good starting point for an ideal seat height; if a supportive chair for you is 48cm, you may find a seat height of 46cm to be slightly too low.
Seat Width is also an important factor. Ensuring the body of the user is not wider than the seat will ensure it is comfortable and easy to get in and out of the chair. This can be confirmed with a simple body width measurement taken while sitting on a seat.
Weight Capacity is a very important factor to consider. Wheelchairs are rated for use up to a certain kilogram (kg) limit; exceeding or being too close to this limit is not recommended under any circumstances, and can put the user and attendant at severe safety risk. For users over 140kg, it is recommended to select a Bariatric Wheelchair, which has been confirmed for capacity up to and over this limit with additional durability testing.
Three Wheelchairs to Consider:
Compact Lite Wheelchair
A lightweight smaller petite style chair, best for smaller users or lightweight applications.
Seat Height: 46cm
Seat Width: 45cm
Weight Capacity: 110kg
A great over all everyday chair for many different applications, from travelling to and from appointments or using around the home and work.
Seat Height: 46-50cm
Seat Width: Available in 46cm and 51cm
Weight Capacity: 150kg
Product code: RM138-*
Bariatric option with higher and wider seat, as well as increased weight capacity.
Seat Height: 53cm
Seat Width: Available in 56cm or 61cm
Weight Capacity: 250kg
Product code: RM160-*
The Environment of Use:
Wheelchairs can be used in a variety of different circumstances; at home, while traveling, in care institutions, hospitals and many more. Sometimes specific wheelchairs are more suited to different environments.
Final Thoughts on Buying a Wheelchair:
These are just a few points to consider when purchasing a wheelchair. Ensuring a wheelchair is suited to the user is an important step to take; it guarantees comfort and safety for both the user and attendant.
It's often best to speak directly with an experienced agent when purchasing a wheelchair, even online. Call 1300 368 085 to speak with a friendly member of the Rehab and Mobility team, who will be happy to discuss your specific requirements regarding wheelchairs and assist with the entire purchasing process.