Manual wheelchairs - 10 things to consider prior to purchasing one

Manual Wheelchairs - 10 important things to consider prior to purchasing one


There are many things to consider when choosing the right wheelchair for the user.

Things like wheelchair weight, size, and frame type, as well as the user and carers needs must be taken into consideration.


Below are a number of factors that you should consider:

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  1. Transporting a wheelchair – the importance of weight
  2. Transfer considerations
  3. Choosing the right size
  4. Who will be pushing the wheelchair?
  5. How often will the wheelchair be used each day?
  6. Physical condition
  7. Where will the wheelchair be used?
  8. Folding or rigid frame?
  9. Arm rest types
  10. Are any accessories required?


A carer and person on a wheelchair 


1. Transporting a wheelchair – the importance of weight

A key factor when choosing a manual wheelchair is the weight of the chair.

The lighter the chair the easier it will be to propel, and transport in a car or other vehicle.


Basic, economy, wheelchairs can be made from steel which is heavy to lift and propel. Aluminium chairs are generally much lighter.


When choosing a wheelchair, it is important to consider who will be transporting the wheelchair:

  • What weight can safely be lifted?
  • How often will the chair need to be transported?
  • What vehicle is the wheelchair going in?
  • Will the chair need to be dismantled to fit into the vehicle?



2. Transfer considerations

How the user will get in and out of the manual wheelchair is also important. Choosing a model with swing away, removable, leg rests and flip-back arm rests may assist in this process where clear front access or side transfer is required.


3. Choosing the right size

  • Is the weight capacity right for the size of the user?
  • Does the seat fit the user?
  • Are their legs comfortable?


It is important to get the right size of wheelchair to suit the user.

As part of our assessment process, we can measure the ideal width, depth and height of the seat as well as the height and angle of the leg rests and footplates.


Some models offer adjustment to the seat width, seat depth, armrest height, backrest height and tension.


Wheelchair types - self propelled


4. Who will be pushing the wheelchair?

  • Is the wheelchair light enough, with the user in it, for the carer to push?
  • If so, will the carer also be able to push uphill?
  • Does the carer need attendant brakes to safely control the wheelchair when going downhill?


5. How often will the wheelchair be used each day?

If the wheelchair will be in use all day (or more than 4 hours) then it is important that it has the correct seating and backrest.


You may consider the use of a pressure care cushion – anything ranging from simple foam for basic comfort to an air or gel cushion for higher-risk pressure care.


Roho Quadtro Cushion


Roho Quadtro Select Pressure Reducing Cushion - High Profile

18" w x 16" d

TheraMed Multipurpose Cushion


TheraMed Multipurpose Chair Cushion

Available in Steri Plus or Dura Fab cover


6. Physical condition

Does the user have medical issues with their shoulders, arms, wrists or hands? This may prevent them from safely using a self-propelled wheelchair. In this case a transit wheel chair - also known as attendant propelled wheelchair - may be more suitable.


7. Where will the wheelchair be used?

Are they local footpaths smooth or rough?


Do they want to go over grass or rougher terrain? If so, a self-propelled model with larger rear wheel could be more appropriate


Wheelchair outdoor


8. Folding or rigid frame?

  • Foldable wheelchairs make it much easier to transport or store
  • Rigid, or non-folding, frames are stronger, more durable and have a very stable feel to them. Most tilt-in-space wheelchairs are non-folding


Azalea Tilt-n-Recline Wheelchair - Self-propelled

Available in 16", 18", or 20" seat width


9.Arm rest types

  • Full length or desk length? Desk length are shorter enabling closer access to tables but less support when transferring on or off the chair
  • Fixed arm rests are the most stable for transfers
  • Flip-back or removable arms are useful for side transfers or getting closer to fixed objects


10. Are any accessories required?

Consider if the user has any other health conditions that could be exacerbated from prolonged use of a manual wheelchair.


There are many accessories to counteract this, including: wheelchair cushions, postural back rests, elevating leg rests, stump supports, oxygen bottle holders.


Ask one of our friendly team for more details.


With so many options available and so many factors to consider, choosing the right wheelchair can be quite challenging.


Our team have years of experience in finding the right products and will tailor the solutions based on your needs.
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