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Wheelchair Comparison - Types of Wheelchairs
Are you researching what manual wheelchair type is going to be a good choice for you or your loved one? Do wheelchairs look and feel clunky and cumbersome to you? Do you want to find something that will work better in your environment and be easier to handle? It's out there and we can help you find it!
Read more on the different types of wheelchairs to below, or email us your mobility challenges.
Which wheelchair type is best for me?
There are a lot of wheelchairs out there and it is difficult to sort through all the options and price points to land on the best match. We have been doing that for years, so hopefully this can help narrow down your choices and make the purchasing process easier. Remember you can always call us and even do a virtual eval if that is not enough.
Types of Manual Wheelchairs
Different Types of Wheelchairs Video
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The Ultimate Wheelchair Buying Guide
According to CDC statistics, about 61 million adults in the US live with some disability, with 14% of them having severe mobility issues. This points to the higher demand for mobility-related technologies across the US.
Wheelchairs online are available in various kinds, with varying features and benefits. All wheelchairs, however, are classified into two broad categories: manual and powered wheelchairs. We will cover manual Wheelchairs in this article
Weight of the chair
Types of Manual Wheelchairs
So let’s first determine if you need a standard wheelchair or a transport chair.
A manual wheelchair can be self-propelled or attendant-propelled. A Transport Chair can only be attendant propelled.
A Standard Wheelchair is a self-propelled chair allows you to propel yourself with no one’s help. Typically, they come with larger back wheels and push rims that make it easy for the user to maneuver the way around places.
The chair is also equipped with push handles that allow an attendant to push the chair occupant, when necessary.
An upgrade to the standard wheelchair is the lightweight and ultra-lightweight manual wheelchairs that are built with light materials to ease transportation and storage. Uniquely suited for regular outgoers, these wheelchairs are usually foldable and equipped with removable and adjustable components
A Transport Chair, is an attendant-propelled wheelchair, also known as transit chair, is an excellent pick for a user without enough strength to push the rims. It has small wheels to increase portability, and rotating ease but the occupant cannot reach them for self-propulsion. It’s therefore super important to determine the availability of your caregiver before buying this kind of wheelchair.
Another factor to consider is that transport chairs really only have basic sizing with no adjustments for seat to floor height or extra-large or short seat depth. So if someone has really long legs or special sizing requirements, they may also be better in a wheelchair that is adjustable or can be ordered custom to accommodate their size.
Self Propelled Wheelchairs
There are essentially 4 categories of wheelchairs, standard, light-weight, ultralight weight, and bariatric wheelchairs.
This separates the chairs into categories based on the chair weight and then the user weight (bariatric = 300lbs+). The price of the chair is often linked to the weight of the chair, the lighter the chair the more expensive. Also if a chair is customizable it will be more expensive. The lighter the chair the easier it is to push and manipulate, as well put into the car.
Standard wheelchairs are sturdy wheelchairs that have bigger wheels
(20-26")so the chair can be wheeled by the user and back handles if you want to push the chair from behind. Standard wheelchairs are not built to be light(36lbs and up), they are built to be durable and great for long term use like in a hospital.
Standard wheelchairs are made of hard steel that is extremely durable and most are coated with a protective chrome or paint that make them very rust resistant and built to last. You can replace the seating on them so you can expect them to last 10 years.Shop Standard Wheelchairs
Standard Wheelchairs Review
"Invacare also takes the cake with their Tracer EX. It is not an elegant wheelchair, but it is well built and will last a long time. For the quality in construction is also well priced at about $250. The other standard wheelchairs out there don’t hold up like the Tracer. If I had to choose a second I would say E&J and then the Drive Silver Sport. I generally do not encourage my clients to get a standard wheelchair because they will be so much better served in a lightweight high strength chair. Not mention more comfortable if they get one that is Ergonomically designed or adjustable." - Owner Harmony
An upgrade to the standard wheelchair is the lightweight. They are made with lightweight metals (30-36lbs) and have an ergo-dynamic design. These are great if you have to pack your chair and lift it into a vehicle. Lightweight wheelchairs are perfect for on the go users. These wheelchairs are usually foldable and equipped with removable and adjustable components
Lightweight Wheelchair Review
"A well priced really light one is the Karman 802DY for around $350. It is very light at just over 30 lbs, but it’s construction is simple and not the strongest of the chairs. It’s main advantage is weight and price point. Then you have the Drive Viper GT, this chair is the right chair if someone has long legs, as the seat pan is extendable, or if they are a foot propeller, as you can quickly lower the chair with the quick adjust axels. You can also open up the back angle for a more reclined seated position. This can help someone sit more comfortable without sliding forward in the chair. You can also add seat slope to this wheelchair, while the option is limited depending on person’s height, it’s still an option. The chair weighs 32 lbs and is my favorite when someone needs some adjustability and mild customization, but does not want to spend $2000 or more on a custom chair. The Viper GT is $600." - Owner Harmony
Ultralight wheelchairs are similar to the lightweight wheelchairs except they weigh even less (30lbs and under), They also have the best Egro designs which is really important to get the chair that fits, feels, and functions best when someone is going to be sitting in it all day. That is why the Ergo-designed chairs that are lightweight and easy to handle are the best option for everyday chair users
Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchair Review
"The Strong Back wheelchair. This chair has a curved back rest and sloped seat, creating an ergonomic seated position. This position helps people stay in their chairs without sore backs and bottoms. It can still be advisable to use a cushion if someone is a high pressure risk or they need a higher seat to floor height, but the average person can get by without one in this chair. The chair has soft rubber push rims, which make it really easy to grip them to push the chair. They are softer on hands with arthritis. Then the cross brace is very tight, making a more rigid-chair feel. This makes the seat sling sag less and also gives more energy to your push. The Strong Back wheelchairs also have a unique leg rest where you can just flip them back to get them out of the way and leave them on the chair all the time. This feature is helpful for caregivers or in facilities where parts may get lost. This way the leg rests always stay with the chair, and even with them on the chair is only 25 lbs! At $650 it’s a winner. This in one of my favorite chairs."- Owner Harmony
Bariatric chairs are generally very heavy, although the Drive Viper GT Heavy Duty offers a nice chair with some adjustability and only weighing 35 lbs yet has a weight capacity of 350 lbs. If someone is under 350 lbs and needs a 22” wide seat this is definitely the way to go. Otherwise bariatric chairs weigh 40-60 lbs. The Invacare T4 heavy duty wheelchair is the other way to go if someone is over 350lbs or you just want a work horse of a chair and don’t care about weight so much. The T4 will last for years.
Transport wheelchairs do not have big wheels for self-propelling, when you are in a transport chair someone needs to push you along. They come in various models and sizes but are near the same as other manual wheelchairs without the big wheels. The small wheels allow for better turning radiuses in small areas.
An attendant-propelled wheelchair, also known as transit or transport chair, is an excellent pick for a user without enough strength to push the rims. It has small wheels to increase portability.
Things to Consider When Buying a Wheelchair Online
Buying a wheelchair is a significant investment. This points to the need to deliberate about several factors to get equipment that suits your needs and preferences.
When studying the elements of a wheelchair, first check its wheels. Wheelchair casters can swivel in every possible direction and usually have solid tires.
The rear wheels can be pneumatic or solid. Solid tires are puncture-resistant but offer a relatively rougher ride. Although pneumatic tires are excellent shock absorbers, they are more susceptible to punctures than their solid counterparts.
By incorporating a quick-release button, most rear wheels can be removed quickly to reduce the overall size and ease transportation of the wheelchair.
If you intend to use your wheelchair on slippery surfaces or during winter, the traction of the tires is something you don’t want to overlook.
Pay special attention to the footrests, of which most can swing outwards while some can turn both inwards and outwards. Swing-away footplates give you room to stand in front of your chair without stepping over the plates.
Elevating footrests are essential if there’s a need to keep your legs straight or raise them for a more extended period. You might consider removable footrests if the weight and size are a great deal when transporting and storing your chair.
Remember to check the armrests installed on your choice of a wheelchair. Although armrests offer significant arm support during rests and movements, they can bring in hurdles during sideways transfers. For this reason, most wheelchairs have detachable or flip-up armrests.
The standard armrest height can prevent good access to a table. Swing-up-arm and half-arm wheelchairs can help eliminate the hassle. Height-adjustable armrests can, however, save you plenty of hurdles associated with regular counterparts.
Ease of Storage and Transportation
As much as a wheelchair enhances your mobility, consider the ease of transporting or storing the machine. This is usually determined by the weight of the materials and the availability of removable components.
Pushing or lifting a bulky chair requires considerable energy. Conversely, a foldable, lightweight wheelchair is easy to handle, takes less storage space, and can easily be stashed in the boot of a vehicle for seamless transportation.
All in all, leave the wheelchair shop with equipment that suits your logistics preferences.
Size and Weight Capacity
Size remains a critical factor in wheelchair selection. You want to avoid a situation where customers pick mobility equipment with excellent features but in the wrong size.
Several measurements factor in the overall size of a wheelchair, including the dimensions of the features discussed earlier. A section in this guide will shed light on important wheelchair dimensions.
Note that each wheelchair has a maximum weight capacity, so ensure that your choice is robust enough to accommodate your weight
Comfort becomes a critical consideration when buying a wheelchair for daily use. A key determinant of comfort in a wheelchair is the seat, mainly made of vinyl or nylon.
Most chairs need to be used with a wheelchair cushion too. They have flat seat pans that tend to sag and arm rests set at heights intended for cushion use. Anytime someone is in a chair for more than 4 hours they should consider a wheelchair cushion and if they have high risk or history of pressure sores they should be on a skin protection cushion.
Pick a chair that offers you optimum head and back support, primarily if an existing medical condition influences the amount of support you require. If you require a lot of support, a tilt wheelchair that can be adjusted to more comfortable positions may be what you need
Least of your expectations when buying a wheelchair, are unexplained shipping delays, poor customer support, and products with defects. That’s why it’s essential to check the reputation of a vendor before purchasing equipment from them.
A glance at customer reviews on the supplier’s website and social media pages could be the only difference between frustrations and a fulfilling buying process. You want to see if the vendor responds to customer concerns and how they handle complaints. Also, check whether customers were satisfied with the services offered
Considerations for the Right Wheelchair Size
The right seat gives you enough room to be comfortable, but not so wide that you can’t support your arms with the armrests.
A seat that’s too narrow feels uncomfortable and exposes you to the risk of pressure sores. If the seat is too broad, often, you may need to lean on one side for support.
Standard seat widths for wheelchairs in San Diego are 16 inches, 18 inches, and 20 inches, with 18 inches being the most common size.
The seat depth is measured from the back of your shin to the back of your pelvis when sitting straight on the wheelchair.
A very short seat offers little support to the thighs, thus transferring lots of pressure to the hips. If the seat is too long, you don’t get enough back support and may experience constant pressure on the knees
Seat to Floor Height
With the right seat-to-floor height, it’s easy to place your feet on the floor, use tables, desks, and countertops, and reach shelves.
A height that’s too low results in issues such as awkward transfers, inability to reach higher shelves, and footrests dragging on the floor
A seat that’s too high makes it difficult to pick things off the floor, get close enough to tables and desks, and transfer out and into the wheelchair.
If you cannot propel a wheelchair with your hands, your feet are the next mobility option. Here, the seat-floor height should be low enough so you can plant your feet on the ground firmly and propel yourself.
The armrests are designed to support the occupant’s arms with minimal stress. However, if they are too low, you may have to lean on one side for support, and if they are too high, your shoulders will hunch. Adding a cushion to the seat can help solve problems associated with overly high armrests.
The armrest height should be least of your worries when buying a wheelchair with adjustable armrests
The ideal wheelchair backrest height is the length between the seat and the user’s collarbone when sitting straight on the chair.
Most wheelchairs have a fixed backrest height, with their level of cushioning varying with the price. You can, however, extend backrest height with optional accessories to get more support. Chairs with adjustable backrests are also available but at a higher cost.
Popular Light weight Wheelchairs
- Viper Plus Lightweight Wheelchair
- DY Lightweight Wheelchairs 802
- Invacare 9000 XT Lightweight Wheelchair
- Invacare MyOn HC Lightweight Wheelchair
Popular Standard Wheelchairs
- Invacare Tracer IV HD Wheelchair
- Tracer EX Wheelchair
Why Buy a Wheelchair
A wheelchair enhances movement incredibly. It’s designed to fit in tight spaces, making it ideal for day-to-day usage at home and in public places.
The majority of transport services around the USA are wheelchair accessible, so users don’t have to spend a fortune on alternative means to have a moment away from their homes.
A wheelchair also offers independence. You can move around your home while undertaking your daily activities, even with limited mobility. A motorized wheelchair takes this notion further with ease of use and less fatigue.
With a wheelchair, it’s easy to take part in social activities, which are integral to mental and physical health. You can visit the local park or head to the local shops and gallery, rather than stay holed up in your home.
The impact of a wheelchair on the user’s health cannot be underestimated. Besides increasing the physical activity level, an appropriate wheelchair coupled with ample usage training, can help prevent the progress of deformities, and relieve pressure sores and other issues associated with bad posture.
Whereas certain health conditions can necessitate the permanent use of a wheelchair, the device can also offer temporary help, especially if you are recovering from an operation or injury.
See our home page for more Medical Supplies in San Diego
Popular Transport Wheelchairs
- Drive ATC Transport Wheelchair 17"
- Drive Expedition Transport Wheelchair
- Ergo Lite Transport Wheelchair S2501
- NOVA Lightweight Transport Wheelchair