Wheelchairs can vastly improve your quality of life. Buying or hiring a wheelchair if you are disabled or have a health condition that affects your walking means you can continue to do the things you enjoy. Here, we explain the different types and give tips on adjusting your wheelchair.
Choosing the right wheelchair can enable you to socialise and go out with friends and family. Wheelchairs can initially be divided into two main categories: manual wheelchairs (propelled by the user’s own strength) and powered or electric 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.
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. Some companies offer other types, such as handlebar-style drive controls (similar to a scooter’s but smaller), which can be retro-fitted to existing chairs.
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.