Having the correct wheelchair is of great importance for those with a physical mobility disability. Although many of the factors seem obvious, it is often necessary to go through and review each element to make the right decision(s) when buying the right wheelchair.
Among the first things to consider is how the wheelchair user will be transferred to and from the wheelchair. Another related factor is how the wheelchair will be propelled, either by the wheelchair user him/herself or by an attendant. These factors have significant implications on the size of the wheelchair.
First of all, having the wrong height may cause the user to have bad posture which can lead to long term health problems including damaging the spine.
The seat's height is also important for the safety of the wheelchair user and the ease by which he can transfer to and from the wheelchair. Furthermore, those who have the need to propel the wheelchair with their feet may need to have a seat height that will allow them to use their heels while still comfortable.
How the user will transfer to and from the wheelchair also has significant implications on the kind of wheelchair arm rests that are required. Should the user be able to stand and walk to the wheelchair, full length and stable arm rests are recommended. On the other hand, swing away, folding, or removable arm rests are recommended for those who have to slide on to their wheelchair.
For users who have no trouble transferring to and from their wheelchairs, it might be more beneficial to use shorter arm rests especially when the wheelchair user works from the wheelchair in front of a desk or table. Shorter arm rests allow the wheelchair user to get closer to the table they are using.
Adjustable arm rests can be requested when customising wheelchairs so that the height can be perfect for every immediate need of the wheelchair user.
The wheelchair users height is significant in determining how high the back rest should be. Although the typical wheelchair back rest ends just below the users shoulder blades, other factors have to be considered. The strength of the wheelchair users upper body determines what type of wheelchair frame and wheelchair type is needed.
Those wheelchair users that have limited upper body strength a lightweight wheelchair is recommended to lessen the strain on the arms and shoulders.
The weight of the wheelchair needed depends on the weight of the user. A standard wheelchair has the maximum load capacity of 250 lbs. Should the user weigh more than this, a bariatric wheelchair is recommended as they hold users up to 700 lbs.
For those with weight and height requirements that exceed the average, custom made wheelchairs are an option - these wheelchairs can be more expensive than the standard "off the shelf" wheelchair that can be bought almost anywhere.
The wheelchairs seat size depends on the wheelchair users physical build. Standard wheelchairs have seats from 14" to 30". The standard depth is 16" and goes up to 20". Should the wheelchair user need a wheelchair seat cushion that is wider custom made cushions can be bought.
In order to measure the perfect seat size, the wheelchair user must be measured in two ways. First, the width of the hips should be measured. The resulting measurement plus an inch is the recommended seat width. Second, the length from the users hip to the knee must be measured. This measurement should be taken while the user is sitting down. Subtract an inch from the resulting measurement and you will get the recommended seat depth.
Lastly, the kind of wheelchair foot rest(s) should be looked at. Wheelchair leg rests come in all shapes and sizes, fixed, swing away, light weight and steel, the majority can be adjusted according to the height of the user. Other wheelchair leg rests can elevate to allow the user to raise or stretch the legs. These are often used by those who experience leg swelling. For those who do not experience this problem, a regular type of foot rest can be used.
Considering all these factors have significant effects on the type of wheelchair to be purchased for or by a wheelchair user as these also will determine just how comfortable and effective the wheelchair can be used.