Choosing a wheelchair for yourself or a loved one? What was once a straightforward matter can be a daunting task today, thanks to great strides in wheelchair technology. There are hundreds of wheelchairs to choose from, with thousands of features and accessories. Prices range from about $1,500 to $20,000 or more.
Although selecting the right chair is complicated, the vast array of options allows a tremendous degree of customization. This means greater mobility and independence for wheelchair users.
Help is Available
You can get help from professionals, such as occupational therapists who can help you wade through the information and find the most suitable chair. Some rehabilitation hospitals or centers have special departments dedicated solely to fitting patients with the best possible wheelchair for each individual’s needs.
You will choose a wheelchair based on your physical ability, lifestyle and personal preferences, as well as factors such as the amount and type of terrain you will cover, whether you need to transport the chair in your car, and what your home and workplace are like.
First, you will select a basic type of wheelchair.
Manual wheelchairs are propelled by the user and require significant upper body strength. There are many kinds of manual wheelchairs, including lightweight chairs, children’s chairs and specialty chairs.
Motorized, or powered wheelchairs are for people without the strength or ability to propel a manual chair. Joysticks are the most common controls, but there are other options for people with limited arm or head mobility.
Scooters are a form of three-wheeled power chair, with the seat situated up on a platform.
Next you will consider features, accessories and the seat, which is chosen separately. You will be fitted for the chair, to make sure it feels comfortable and doesn’t cause difficulties such as pressure sores, muscle strain or posture problems.
The process may take some time, but a wheelchair is an vital piece of equipment, so don’t be too hasty in purchasing it. If you need to use a wheelchair immediately, rent or borrow one until you figure out which one to buy.
I found an excellent online source of consumer information about wheelchairs. The Abledata Web site is published by the federal Education Department’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.