Manual wheelchairs have come a long way since the first known wheelchair was custom-made in 1595 for King Philip II, the King of Spain during the 16th century. The initial chair, crudely named the ‘Invalids’ Chair’, featured an elaborate design that had both armrests and leg rests, but due to its heavy weight and lack of a propulsion mechanism, it required assistance to move it.
Thankfully, the design of wheelchairs has evolved considerable over the years and today’s modern manual versions offer numerous different variants to meet the specific needs of their users. From self-propelled manual versions to ultra-lightweight foldable wheelchairs suitable for travel, electric wheelchairs, and even specialist versions designed for wheelchair sports, chair types and functions have grown significantly throughout the years.
Manual wheelchairs are usually propelled by the user, typically by pushing on round bars that surround the wheels, but they can also feature handles to the rear so they can also be manoeuvred by caregivers.
The self-propelled design traditionally consists of four wheels, two large wheels to the rear to support the user’s weight and help propel the wheelchair, and two smaller wheels known as casters at the front to help assist manoeuvrability.
Transport chairs are also available and feature four small wheels which make the chair extremely lightweight and easy to move. Designed to be manoeuvred by a carer, these wheelchairs can often be found in hospitals or medical facilities.