Taking the first step to getting a wheelchair for the first time can seem a daunting prospect, such is the enormous variety of options on the market and the wide range of prices depending largely on the features that come with each distinct wheelchair. Getting a wheelchair can really boost your independence, social life and help you to spend more time with friends and family as well as getting out doing things you want to do. ?Choosing the right model is an important decision, so it makes sense to be armed with as much information as possible before making the final decision.
1: Consult the experts
This may seem like a no-brainer but it?s staggering just how many people fail to take advantage of the excellent knowledge of mobility shop owners when it comes to matching up people with products. The vast majority of mobility shop staff will be only too happy to help guide you when it comes to choosing the right wheelchair for your particular needs. In addition you should also consult your GP, physiotherapist or another health practitioner as they can give you advice not only when it comes to choosing the wheelchair, but also in accessing the Motability Scheme or other means of financial assistance.
2: Manual vs Powered or Electric
Probably the first decision you need to make (although the decision may be born of necessity) is whether you want a manual or a powered / electric wheelchair. The former will require you to use your arms to propel yourself, whereas the latter does the work for you. The benefit of an electric or powered wheelchair over a scooter is that it is smaller and easier to manoeuvre indoors but you may decide that an electric scooter is more suitable.
The manual wheelchair
In essence a manual wheelchair is most suited for those who need a wheelchair either all or most of the time but have the strength in your arms to create the required movement. If this is not possible you may consider an attendant-propelled wheelchair ? designed to be managed by another person from behind.
The powered wheelchair
This is the perfect option if you lack the mobility or strength in the arms to push yourself around or if you don?t want to or cannot rely on somebody to help you. In addition the powered option is useful for longer trips. Powered wheelchairs are generally a lot heavier than their manual counterparts as their frame must be stronger to support the battery and motor. If choosing a powered model, you need to decide where you are going to be using it as outdoor models tend to be larger, but less manageable indoors.
- Consider portability
Self-propelled models are endowed with larger back wheels that have an outer push rim that you are able to turn to help propel the chair. This feature increases bulk, which can make the chair less easily loaded into the car, so you should look for a model with quick-release wheels (very easy to find these days) or you will potentially have to invest in a car hoist for your wheelchair. So, before planning that holiday with your new wheelchair, make sure you can fit it in the car. The attendant-propelled wheelchairs have smaller back wheels, so this is not an issue for transportability.
- Do you have the storage?
If you opt for a larger outdoor wheelchair you may need a storage option outside the house, like a garage or secure shed. Either way it should be cool, dry and well-ventilated especially when charging.
- Would you benefit from customisations?
Whichever wheelchair you choose, the chances are it can be customised. Perhaps you need a firmer seat or extra postural support? Maybe you need an added headrest or extra cushion. All of these are possible. You can also get a power pack for a manual wheelchair to take some of the strain if you tire of pushing.