The wheel chair you pick out, should ultimately be based upon several things:
How long you’re going to be in a wheel chair.
Your health and physical well-being.
How often you must travel.
Generally speaking, if you are in decent enough condition to be able to propel yourself around in a wheel chair and you expect that being in a wheel chair will be a temporary thing, then buying a manual wheel chair might be the right way to go. Compared to electric wheel chairs, manual wheel chairs are cheaper and usually lighter.
On the other hand, if you are confined to a wheel chair or will be for a very long time, then an electric wheel chair may be the perfect route for you. Think about this: If you have little upper body strength and your body is not “able” enough, trying to self-propel yourself around in a manual wheel chair will make life miserable. Why exhaust yourself trying to get around if your body is not up for it? That’s what makes electric wheelchairs a good option.
Now there are other factors to take into consideration when choosing a wheel chair that’s right for you. They are:
Seat Size: This is absolutely critical to your quality of life when choosing a wheel chair. You ideally want to have the wheel chair user sit on a measuring tape to inches to allow for heavy clothing such as winter coats. Also, if possible, have the wheel chair user sit upright in the chair, then measure from the back of the seat to about two inches behind their knees.
You’re doing this because you want to be sure the seat is long enough to provide proper leg support without rubbing or irritating the back of their lower legs.
Keep in mind, that for a person 5’4″ and taller, the standard 19″ to 21″ seat height will work well for them, unless they’re using a wheel chair seat cushion.
If the wheel chair user is 5’4″ and shorter, then the hemi seat height of 17″ to 18″ seat height will usually be ideal for them.
And for the person who’s 4’11” and shorter, the super hemi seat height of 14″ to 16″ is usually what you’ll want.
Then there’s the footrest of the wheel chair to take into consideration. It’s important to know that the more the wheel chair footrest sticks out, the harder it is to maneuver the wheel chair. And some footrests are better quality than others. It’s inevitable that a wheel chair user will bump into objects and when that happens the footrest will usually be the part that takes the most punishment. Here are two types of footrests to choose from:
Standard Footrest: If the wheel chair user doesn’t need their legs elevated, but need the footrest to swing out of the way to get in and out of the wheel chair then you might want what’s called the “Swing-Away Footrest.” Keep in mind these footrests do not have calf pads to support the leg.
Elevating Legrest: If the wheel chair user has issues with their legs such as swelling then then this type of footrest may be ideal for them. This footrest does have calf pads.
Finally, there are the armrests of the wheel chair to take into consideration. There are two types: Desk Length Arms, which are ideal for getting close to desks and tables. There’s also Full Length Arms, which are good for the user to push themselves up from the wheelchair, or if extra arm support is required. Please note Full Length Arms take roughly 2 inches off the seat width.
One last consideration of armrests is that for people taller and shorter than the average person, you ideally want to look into adjustable arms to compensate for height requirements.