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How to Choose a Wheelchair

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Well, before buying any wheelchair, there are various parameters such as weight capacity, height, seatbelt, brakes and others which one should consider for sure and in this buying guide, we will let you understand those in a very specific manner.

First, let us take a look at what actually contributes to the making of a wheelchair?

1. Frame

This is an important part of a wheelchair as if it is not strong then you might face many issues such as getting damaged in a very short time. It decides the durability of your chair and to put it in general terms, the load a chair can take suppose 80 kgs. Also, a steel coated or powder coated frame can be best suited for bearing the maximum weight but there are other types of frames as well as the one made with aluminium, titanium and others. Basically there are two types of frames:

  • Rigid: It usually has single-welded frames where the person sits and the wheels of this kind of frame can be removed easily to promote easy transport. Mostly, they are very lightweight and made up of aluminium and titanium which ensure strength and durability. Also, sometimes, carbon fiber is used for its building.
  • Folding: It comes up with X-style frame which ensures that the body or wheelchair is folded comfortably which can be kept even in a smaller space. These are also made up of aluminium and titanium but are heavier than the rigid ones. Also, folding ones have less strength and durability as compared to rigid ones.

2. Wheels

Mostly, in manual or self-propelled wheelchairs, large wheels are present which helps the chair to pull maximum pressure. Suppose, you are looking for a wheelchair that can serve the purpose of rolling on the uneven surface then a larger one can be a fit for you.

To explain more, we have enlisted the most three common types of wheels being used in manual wheelchairs:

  • Composite Mag wheels

They are strong, resilient and lightweight and are made of nylon or fiber like material. They are being widely used due to its spring back quality during any kind of mishappenings or accidents.

  • Spoked wheel

These are the kind of wheels which are similar to the ones used in bicycle and are designed specially for people who are active users as they require a wheel which can roll onto any kind of surface.

  • High performance wheels

They are widely being used for sports purpose and by those who are very active users. Mostly, mag and spoked wheels are preferred by people.

We would also want you to know about the tyres which are used in wheelchair wheels and that is why enlisted them below:

  •  1. Air

They are specifically designed to give a better and easier ride on hard or uneven surfaces due to the air filled in but they also come with a disadvantage- filling of the air timely.

  •  2. Solid

The best advantage of a solid tyre is that it doesn’t come up with the chance of getting worn out and are best fit for riding over bumps and ridges.

  •  3. Foam filled

They are basically the air-tyres filled with semi-solid core which inhibit the qualities of both solid and air tyres.

3. Arm, leg, and headrest

Wheelchairs are built keeping in mind the comfort feature of your body and arm,leg and headrest gives the person complete comfort. Suppose, a person with a leg fracture will look for a feature which will give his legs proper rest and in that case, going with better leg rest wheelchair would be just perfect. Also, if a person who wants to use the wheelchair while watching TV as well then buying the one which has head, arm and leg rest would be a better  option.

4) Seating cover or chair

Even if you are in the office or sitting at your home, a wrong chair can make your back pain worse. The same happens in the case of a wheelchair, the chair plays an integral part as half of your body is being rested upon it. The chair is built keeping various things in mind such as proper posture and space. There are chairs that come up with additional cushions as well and if you have back pain issue then finding out a chair with the cushion would be of no harm.

Types of wheelchairs

There are certainly two types of wheelchairs and we will talk about each of its types in details which could make it easy for you to choose the best one for you!

  • Self-propelled or manual

These are the wheelchairs that can be a better option for people who have issues with their lower body parts only as it is manually managed. Either an attendant or helper is there to push the wheelchair or the person itself can push it using his/her hands. The wheels of this kind of wheelchairs are large so that it can serve the purpose of being on any kind of surface, either hard or soft. Also, these are quite cheaper than electric or power ones. These are also portable ones as they can be folded and carried anywhere. You can easily wash manual wheelchairs as they come up with foldable frames.

  • Electric or motor wheelchair

These types of wheelchairs are used when there is a chronic illness like full-body paralysis and others. It is even used when your upper body parts are also not able to perform the work of pushing manually and hence, they do all the works by running on an electric motor or battery. Mostly, they are expensive than the manual wheelchairs and for obvious reasons as it runs on a motor. For people who are looking out to buy these should always look for the best capacity motor as if the motor stops, the wheelchair can’t be moved due to its heavyweight.

Other features of a wheelchair to be considered

1. User weight capacity

There are few wheelchairs which can hold around 70kgs of load that is user weight. Well, those are only suitable for the people who are lightweight and that is why it is always recommended by the people to go for a higher user weight capacity such as 100kgs or more.

2. Steering or maneuvering

This is a feature which is most likely seen in the case of an electric wheelchair as some are very easy to steer and some are not. While this doesn’t create a problem in the case of a manual one.

To explain it more precisely, rolling a manual wheelchair with hands is more like a cycle and in tight spaces, you would sometimes find it difficult to steer or to give directions but in a motor wheelchair, steering becomes a little easy as you control and maneuver it with a joystick.

3. Product weight

A wheelchair can weigh around 7 to 204 kgs. But the question arises as to which one would best fit a person! Mostly, people go for light-weight wheelchairs as if it is lighter, commuting or traveling would be easier.

4. Number of Wheels

Usually, there are four wheels attached manual wheelchair which has been purchased by a lot of people but in case of an electric wheelchair, there can be six wheels one also.

5. Portability

There are certain wheelchairs that are portable that are easily transportable as you can fold it easily. Mostly, manual wheelchairs have more portability.

6. Various Brakes

If it is an electric wheelchair then certain brakes are fixed along with the motor and if it is a manual one then there are brakes for attendants, hand brakes, leg brakes, and others. If a person is looking out for maximum safety then going for a dual brake system wheelchair would be of no harm.

7. Battery power

This only comes with the electric wheelchairs as having enough battery power is of utmost importance for a smooth function.

8. Easy to clean

Everything gets dirty and that is why buying the one which can be easy to wash or clean would be just perfect. Usually, electric ones are hard to clean as it has a lot of technical functions involved and doesn’t come with foldable feature also. While manual ones are easy to clean.

9. Seating belt

It provides utmost safety and support as suppose if you fall asleep while sitting on the wheelchair then it can prevent you from falling and further accidents.

10. Locking system

Many wheelchairs come with various locking systems like on the belt and on wheels which prevents any further mishaps.

11. Warranty

Usually, the manual ones don’t come with any kind of warranty but if you want to use it for a longer period then there are products that can give you a maximum warranty of 6 to 1 year on average.

12. Price

As the functions of both types of wheelchairs- manual and motor differ, the prices also differ to a wide range. For example, you can find a good manual wheelchair at as low as 5,000 on an average but finding out a good motor wheelchair can be a tough task as it costs too much, as high as 2,00,000 on an average even.

Frequently asked questions

1. Back seat angles are adjustable?

Well, there are certain wheelchairs like the manual ones where back seat angles are only adjustable to a certain point or sometimes, not adjustable at all. Also, in the case of an electric wheelchair, there are few features that come up with backseat adjusting. It completely depends upon you as to which kind of back seat comfort you are looking to buy.

2. Which are the best-suited wheelchairs for indoor and outdoor use?

There are various wheelchairs that come to serve various purposes. Suppose, a person requires a wheelchair for both outdoor and indoor use then buying one which has portability, larger wheels, durability, cushion chair, and most importantly comfortability would be best-suited one. It is advised by the professionals to look upon the one with a lighter weight and heavyweight bearing capacity as 100kgs and others. Also, steel and powder-based frames can be the most durable ones.

3. Can I use a wheelchair on grass or sand?

It completely depends upon the durability of your wheelchair and even on the wheel. For example, if the wheelchair is built upon less durability or with aluminium then rolling on uneven surfaces can cause a lot of problems.

4. Are wheelchairs covered by medicare?

Yes, if you are a US citizen and 65 years old then under part B of medicare, your wheelchair expenses will be covered. There are certain clinics as well which give proper assistance to all your wheelchair requirements that is- they will even measure your body weight, height and the requirements such as for leg injury, paralysis or any other disease. And then recommend or prescribe the best suited for you. To talk about India, we currently do not have any medical expenses like this which are  directly covered and the 2020 government is looking forward to enact a few soon.

5. How do I choose a wheelchair?

Everything you do for the first time, seems tough but you can get adjusted or master it lately. Same happens in the case of a wheelchair, if you are looking for a purchase for the first, you might be very confused but lately, you will understand the different needs and types of it.
You should first decide upon the purpose of purchase such as for long term or short term. If you have got fracture in your leg or a ligament injury, then you would require a short-term wheelchair which can be self-propelled and if you are looking for a wheelchair for longer term then a manual one with more durability or strength will the best fit. You can always refer to our buying guide for clearing any doubts and even if your doubts aren’t clear, you can just comment down below and we will answer them as quickly as possible.

6. Why are wheelchairs so expensive?

Wheelchairs are built by various kinds of material such as frames, wheels and chairs. The frames are made up of steel, aluminium, titanium and carbon fiber, all these are very expensive ones and comes with maximum durability and strength. So, in order to provide your body a complete comfort and safety, wheelchairs are expensive. Well, you can purchase a manual wheelchair as well which are not so expensive and covers almost everything. You can read more about it the article above. 

7. Do you need a prescription for a wheelchair?

Certainly, if you have a fracture or ligament injury then it depends upon you to go for a wheelchair purchase but if you have any certain ailment then going for a prescription is not a bad option. Well, to clear the doubt here, you can purchase the wheelchairs without prescription as they are present in the market to provide you an easy and comfortable commute.

8. Can you rent a wheelchair for a day?

Yes, you can rent a wheelchair for a day, week, months or even a year against certain deposit amounts and rental charges. Well, there are various online sites in India as well which provide you a room to rent a wheelchair over a click but we would want you to consider certain factors before renting which are mentioned in the Buying guide. Also, you should avoid the wheelchair which has any prior damage and choose one depending on your travel requirements such as air travel, sea or road.

9. How long do wheelchairs last?

A wheelchair can be used for around 3 to 4 years and to precisely put, it completely depends on the usage and the requirements. Suppose, you are using the wheelchair only for limited use and on the other hand, the material used in the wheelchair also matters a lot as it decides the durability and strength. You can refer to our buying guide for knowing about the materials used in building of a wheelchair.

10. How can I make my wheelchair more comfortable?

The comfort of the wheelchair depends on the materials used in it and other factors such as head, arm or leg rest for resting your head, arms and legs on it. Also, if you want to make it more comfortable, you can use different types of cushions for seating and back support. Well, there are few wheelchairs which come with cushions inbuilts.

11. What injuries require a wheelchair?

Injuries can be divided into two types- short-term or long-term. Short-term injuries are the ones which stays up for a shorter period such as a fracture, ligament twist or others and in that case, if might want to consider a wheelchair on rent or buy it. Long-term injuries are certain long ailments such as lower-body paralysis and in that case, you might need a wheelchair with more durability and strength.

12. Does insurance pay for wheelchairs?

Not in all cases but yes insurance does pay for wheelchairs but it requires a lot of long procedural works such as tests to prove the injury or cause and others. If it is a private insurance company, the high-risk injuries or congenital ones aren’t taken into consideration mostly and if taken, the charges mount higher than ever. Moreover, there are various insurance coverage schemes by the government such as
* Swavlamban Health Insurance Scheme: it has been designed for PwDs and the major eligibility criteria to get insurance through this is that family’s income should be less than 3LPA. Also, it covers up-to 2 lakhs expenses which can be utilized on a family floater basis.
* Niramaya Health Insurance Scheme: it has also been designed for PwDs and you can avail up to 1 lakh maximum benefit from this scheme. Also, 70,000 is for the inpatient treatment, and rest 30,000 goes for the outpatient.

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