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How to pick the best wheelchairs
Many people who have lived with a disability for a long time, have found that careful consideration of what is the best way to get around has been a key to their independence. This article will look to aid you in the selection processes of wheelchairs and wheelchair use.
These are usually most suitable for people who: require a wheelchair all or most of the time for mobility can walk perhaps with a walking stick or frame – but are unable to cope with longer distances, so use a manual wheelchair when out and about. You will need sufficient strength and movement in your arms to use a self-propelled wheelchair. If you aren’t able to manage this, you would be more suited to an attendant-propelled wheelchair, designed to be pushed from behind by another person. It’s worth noting that most self-propelled wheelchairs will also have push-handles for times when extra help may be needed. Self-propelled wheelchairs have larger back wheels, each with an outer ‘push-rim’ that you turn to control and propel the chair. These wheels make for a bulkier chair, which may be less easy to pack into the boot of a car. For this reason, if you are choosing a self-propelled chair, look for one with quick-release wheels, now commonly available. Attendant-propelled wheelchairs have smaller back wheels, so are often lighter and easier to transport.
Electric or powered wheelchairs
Sometimes called power or electric-assisted wheelchairs, this type would be ideal if you don’t have the strength or stamina to use a self-propelled wheelchair, but do not wish to rely on being pushed or if you sometimes want to take longer journeys in your wheelchair. There is a wide variety of models available, best divided into three categories: Indoor/portable: for use at home, or in places with smooth, even flooring such as shopping centers or garden centers. Usually easy to fold and fit in the boot of a car. Outdoor: will have larger wheels for dealing with uneven terrain, as well as suspension. Can usually be used indoors, too, but their larger size may mean they don’t fit through some doorways. Indoor/outdoor: designed to offer the best of both worlds. Will not be as light and portable as some models, nor as robust as others, but may provide a good balance of features. Powered wheelchairs are described as being either Class 2, meaning they can be used outside on pavements, or Class 3, for use on roads and pavements. All are generally a lot heavier than manual wheelchairs because their frame has to be stronger in order to support the battery and motors. Bear this in mind when thinking about the ease of transporting a wheelchair.
Drive controls on electric wheelchairs
The most common type of ‘drive control’ on an electric wheelchair is a joystick mounted on one of the armrests. In theory, these are very simple, although they can sometimes prove difficult to learn. You may initially find the controls to be over or under-sensitive, but it should be possible to have them adjusted to suit you.
Batteries and storage
Batteries are charged by mains electricity, so the wheelchair should generally be stored next to a socket for charging overnight. Some of the larger outdoor-type wheelchairs may need to be stored outside the home – in a garage, for example.
If you have steps up to your house or small changes of level inside, portable ramps are essential. They are available in various materials, widths and lengths, depending on your needs, so do your research before buying.
Maintenance of a Wheel Chair in Home or Hospital
Maintaining your wheelchair can be easy if you have some information on how to keep your wheelchair in top shape. This section includes pointers on how to maintain your wheelchair.
Points for maintaining a manual wheelchair:
- Store your owner’s manual in a safe place for future reference.
- Use a car wax on the chair frame to make future cleaning easier. Store tools in a pouch, bag or container on your chair for use in a maintenance emergency.
- Learn how to change your tires.
- Purchase a tire “patch” kit and carry it with you.
- Purchase a hand-pump to inflate tires and carry it with you.
- Learn how to change your tires.
- Wipe chair down with clean damp rag.
- Lift the footplates up before getting in or out of the chair.
- Keep loose objects or lap cover away from the wheel spokes.
- It’s a good practice to always lock the brakes before getting in and out of the wheelchairs
- Inspect wheels to ensure spokes from the axle to the rim are intact, and that rims are not bent.
- Inspect front casters for wobbling, excessive play and alignment.
- Clean axle housings of any debris.
- Check tire pressure.
- Check that wheel locks/brakes are secured tightly to the frame and are easily activated.
- After a thorough cleaning, use a car wax on the frame to make the next cleaning easier.
- Check for loose nuts and bolts.
- Check your wheel alignment.
- Check for easy release and replacement of removable leg rests, footrests, armrests and backrests.
- Inspect chair frame for cracks.
- Check that quick-release axles remove quickly.
- Check that folding chairs open and fold easily. Lubricate folding mechanism.
- Lubricate all pivot points.
- Lubricate ball-bearings.
Points for maintaining an electric (power) wheelchair:
- Before transferring into or out of the device always turn the wheelchair OFF
- Listen to your Motor Become familiar with the sounds it makes what is “normal”
- Charge your Batteries: Never allow your battery to run down entirely. If your batteries are having difficulty keeping a charge, have your chair serviced as soon as possible.
- Wipe down the seat and frame with a dry or slightly damp, soft cloth: Keep dust and grime to a minimum.
- IMMEDIATELY clean up moisture and spills. DO NOT allow moisture of any kind to come in contact with electric parts. If significant fluid exposure to the electronics appears to have occurred, use of device should be discontinued. The device should then be examined by a service professional.
- ALWAYS keep protective plastic covers (“shrouds”) in place: Shrouds do not only add to the aesthetics of your chair, but in addition will help protect your electronics from exposure to moisture or fluid spills. If the shroud becomes damaged it should be replaced.
- Inspect upholstery for rips.
- Wheelchairs should be examined during maintenance for signs of corrosion due to exposure to fluids.
- Electrical components damaged by corrosion should be replaced IMMEDIATELY.
- Checks wheels for cracks and wear. Replace if necessary.
- Inspect seat-positioning strap for any signs of wear.
- Ensure buckle latches and verify hardware that attaches strap to frame is secure and undamaged. Strap should be in good condition and free from tears or fraying. Replace if necessary. Inspect electrical components for apparent signs of corrosion. Replace if corroded or damaged.
Watch the video to understand the above details:
FAQs about Wheel Chairs
What wheelchair sizes are available?
Wheelchairs come in many sizes. Small children’s models are available in a variety of types to suit kids of all ages. Adult wheelchairs are also available in many sizes, so individuals can find one that will work for them. Consider the maneuverability of the wheelchair and also the weight capacity when comparing sizes.
What are the different types of manual wheelchairs?
There are several types of manual wheelchairs to provide users with different options. Large rear-wheel chairs, equipped with a tubular ring, allow individuals to maneuver their wheelchairs without assistance. Manual wheelchairs that are meant to be pushed by a second person are lighter in weight and made to be user-friendly.
What should I look for when considering portability?
Many wheelchairs feature lightweight frames and fold easily for placement in the trunk or backseat of a car. Larger rear-wheel-propelled chairs may also fold for storage, but they are heavier than other designs and may be difficult to load into a vehicle. Some manual wheelchairs have removable armrests and wheels, allowing them to fit into small spaces. Assess your portability needs when comparing manual wheelchairs.
What are the important safety features to consider?
Manual wheelchairs should have some key safety features. Look for locking brakes on the rear wheels to keep the wheelchair stationary when needed. Removable or retractable leg and foot rests keep the user comfortable and safe. Some models feature a seat belt or a seat harness for individuals with specific support needs, and seat cushions made from gel or weight-absorbing material may reduce the development of sores and promote comfort.
Having read this article you are now equipped with the right knowledge towards selecting and maintaining a wheelchair.