Manual wheelchairs come in a variety of sizes and styles to meet most patients' needs to be ambulatory within or outside of the home. A manual wheelchair is a chair that a client can self-propel or have a caregiver push for them. There are a few things to consider before making a purchase. Remember, some people spend many hours of their day sitting in a wheelchair so comfort and ease of use are just some of the many considerations that should be made before purchasing one. Here are some of the things to consider:
Wheelchairs come in standard sizes and in pediatric and bariatric sizes. The weight and width of a person are important factors. The wheelchair must be sturdy enough to handle the weight of the client and wide enough in the seat to accommodate the size of the client.
A wheelchair seat that is too narrow will cause pressure and be fairly uncomfortable to sit in for long periods. Standard wheelchair widths are 16” for narrow adults, 18” for average adults, and 20” for wide adults. Bariatric wheelchairs for anyone who needs over 20” of seating space can get widths of 28” and up. As far as weight capacities for standard manual wheelchairs, it is normally 250lbs to 350lbs for a light-weight wheelchair and heavy-duty wheelchairs are designed to handle weight capacities of 700lbs and up.
Standard manual wheelchairs come mostly with two different types of seat upholstery. Vinyl and nylon. Although nylon is porous, lightweight, breathable, and less expensive, it is more difficult to clean. Vinyl is a bit more expensive as a seat cover, it is less porous than nylon but is also a less breathable material and can cause the client to perspire more. However, it is easier to clean and sanitize.
Depending on how long the client spends each day in the chair and what their conditions may be, it will normally dictate the material of the seat. Remember, seat overlays are readily available and come in gel, memory foam, and other materials to help make the seat more comfortable and decrease perspiration or skin breakdown.
Most standard wheelchairs have a standard arm length but some are designed to be able to be used at a desk. So, when choosing a wheelchair, think of how it may be used most often. For working clients, some will own both a desk-length chair for work and a standard arm-length chair for all other times. Desk length chairs’ arms are 4” shorter than standard length arms and are also used often for sitting at a table as well as a desk.
Manual wheelchairs can weigh anywhere between 35lbs to almost 60lbs. The material that the chair is made of is important, but this is only one of the factors that go into the weight of the chair itself. The frame and the components on the chair will add weight.
Many clients using a manual wheelchair have to self-propel the chair, so the weight is very important to allow them freedom and to help conserve energy. The other factor of chair weight is transport. It has to be easy for the client or caregiver to fold up and pick up to put into a vehicle for travel. Selecting a chair weight is unique to each client and their abilities or resources.
Manual wheelchairs are equipped to accommodate footrests for the client. The majority of clients using a wheelchair will need footrests. There are swing-away rests and elevating footrests. All footrests are easy to put onto the chair or remove if needed. The swing-away style allows the footrest to swing away from the clients' feet so they can stand without obstacles. Elevating footrests are normally for those clients who need their legs elevated when seated.
Drive Blue Streak Single Axle Wheelchair
HPFY carries a variety of mobility aids, including manual wheelchairs, place your order today. Also, check out our seating section to see what wheelchair cushions for the seat may be available to keep yourself or your loved one comfortable when using the chair.
Author Profile: Laura Castricone, Respiratory Therapist
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