What to look for When Buying a Wheelchair
A wheelchair is a significant investment, so it is important to choose the one that best suits your needs. It's important that your wheelchair can go everywhere you want to go but that it is also in your price range and easy for you to use (don't go for all the bells and whistles if you aren't going to use them!).
Ask yourself the following questions when shopping for a wheelchair:
Do you want a manual wheelchair or a power wheelchair? Motorized wheelchairs are powered by batteries and require far less physical exertion by the user. This is usually important to older users and users with physical disabilities in their upper bodies. Power wheelchairs are also ideal for users living on their own who do not have anyone to assist them. On the other hand, manual wheelchairs require more work but also provide an avenue for disabled users to get some exercise. They are also excellent for users wishing to participate in sports.
What will you be using your chair for? This is where sports come into play again. The chair for you will depend on what you are using it for. Some users stay mostly in their own homes while others visit friends, do grocery shopping and even play sports. Lightweight wheelchairs might be the answer for those users who are more active; they can weigh as little as 28 pounds, whereas motorized wheelchairs can weigh 140 pounds or more.
Will you be traveling with your chair? Many chairs – both manual and electric wheelchairs – are available in collapsible form. They fold up with the push of a few levers and will fit in the back of most vehicles. Transport wheelchairs are extremely convenient, but also have a higher price than other chairs, so it is important to factor in how often you might be traveling with the chair and whether a wheelchair lift might be a better option. If it is not necessary to have a collapsible transport wheelchair, perhaps you can invest in other features instead.
What shape of seat do you want? While this may seem like a silly question, it's important that you are comfortable in your chair. Some chairs come with headrests, some have wide seats and some are narrower. The best way to determine what you like is by visiting a wheelchair showroom and trying out as many seats as you can.
Salespeople at the wheelchair stores will be able to direct you to some options they believe will fit your needs, particularly if you can answer these questions for them. Your doctor and physiotherapist will also be important resources and can often suggest where to start looking for your chair.
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