Need help choosing a manual wheelchair? Can’t figure out how to open or fold your manual wheelchair? See the FAQ below for help.
Before shopping for a wheelchair, it’s helpful to take a few measurements of the person who will be using the wheelchair. Ask the individual to sit in a chair. Then take the following measurements:
Write down the measurements and use them to compare wheelchairs online. It’s also helpful to know the individual’s weight to make sure he or she does not exceed the wheelchair’s weight limit.
A transport chair is designed to be pushed by a caregiver. A standard wheelchair gives you the option of either being pushed by a caregiver or propelled by the user. Transport wheelchairs are lighter in weight with smaller rear wheels, which makes them lighter and easier to lift into a vehicle. Standard wheelchairs are more comfortable for everyday use.
The easiest way to fold a wheelchair is to grab the front and back of the wheelchair sling seat and pull up. Make sure the footrests are folded out of the way before folding the wheelchair.
Tilt the wheelchair slightly to one side and press down on one or both seat rails. Remember to keep your fingers out of the way so you don’t get pinched!
Most elderly individuals are able to do some of the transfer work from a wheelchair on their own. When you help an individual into or out of a wheelchair, ask the individual to help with the transfer as much as possible. Be patient and allow the individual as much time as needed to do their part of the transfer.
If the person you are transferring is lightweight and petite, you may be tempted to do more of the lifting yourself. But it’s important to allow the person being transferred to do as much as possible. This allows the individual to retain their sense of independence and saves your back in the process.
Ask a physical therapist to show you how to maintain proper body posture when assisting with transfers. Transferring from a wheelchair to a bath bench may require a different technique than transferring from a wheelchair to a car seat.
In some cases, a two-person transfer is safer. Do not attempt to assist with a wheelchair transfer by yourself if two people are needed. An unsafe transfer puts yourself and the individual you are helping at risk for injury.
Always communicate clearly with the person you are transferring. Let them know what you are going to do before you do it, and tell them again what you are doing as you do it. If they have a difficult time hearing, communicate your intentions through gestures and body language. Always show respect for the individual’s feelings, body, and dignity.
Looking for a wheelchair for yourself or a loved one? There are many options available, from customized electric wheelchairs to heavy duty wheelchairs to ultra lightweight transport chairs.
For manual wheelchairs, you have two choices: transport or self-propelled. Transport wheelchairs are for users who will be pushed around by a caregiver. Self-propelled wheelchairs are for users who want to be able to get around by themselves, along with the option of being pushed by a caregiver.
Since transport wheelchairs are lighter in weight than self-propelled wheelchairs, you can easily take the chair with you on outings. Transport chairs are easier to lift into the back of a vehicle for transport. Since the rear wheels are smaller than a self-propelled wheelchair, the transport chair is lighter and more compact.
For everyday use, self-propelled wheelchairs are more common. They make it easy for the user to move around, and they often provide more comfort for users who are seated in a wheelchair most of the day. For users who only need a wheelchair for trips outside the home, such as doctor appointments and shopping, a transport chair is quick and easy to use. Some users also like the transport chair for home use, with its smaller frame and the ability to move the chair with their feet.
For comfort and ease of movement, it’s important to choose a wheelchair that fits the person using the chair. A poor-fitting wheelchair will make it difficult to sit for long without getting sore, pinched, or numb. Even more important, it can result in bad posture, poor ergonomics, and muscle strain for the user.
The three most important measurements to use for a wheelchair fitting are seat width, seat depth, and seat height.
For wheelchair seat width, measure the distance between the user’s hips while seated. If you have trouble getting the measurement, try placing a book upright on each side of the user. With the books pressed lightly against the user’s hips, measure the distance between the two books.
After measuring hip width, add a couple of inches for a more comfortable fit. The extra seat width also makes room for bulky clothing or a winter coat.
|Seat Width Measurement|
|Width of hips in seated position + 1 inch|
With the user seated all the way back in a chair, measure the distance from the back of the knee to where the user’s back meets the chair. Subtract an inch or two to account for relaxed posture while seated in a wheelchair. This is the correct seat depth.
|Seat Depth Measurement|
|Distance from back of knee to back of seat, minus 1-2 inches|
With the user still in a seated position, measure the distance from the underside of the knee to the bottom of the foot. The standard 19″ to 21″ seat height works well for most individuals 5’4″ and taller. Seat-to-floor height is especially important for users who want to propel the wheelchair around a small area with their feet.
|Seat Height Measurement|
|User Height||Approx. Seat Height|
|4’11″ and under||14″ to 16″|
|5’4″ and under||17″ to 18″|
|5’4″ and above||19″ to 21″|
Loading a wheelchair into a vehicle can be cumbersome. Even a lightweight wheelchair can be awkward and heavy to lift, especially when the vehicle has a high threshold. But there are ways to make it easier to transport a wheelchair.
A folding wheelchair is easier to handle than a rigid frame or a standard power chair. Removing accessories such as the leg rests, arm rests, and quick release wheels (if available) makes the wheelchair lighter and easier to lift.
If you are lifting the wheelchair into the trunk or rear hatch of a vehicle, cover the bumper and sill with a thick rug or moving blanket to protect your vehicle from scratches. You can use the rug to cover the wheelchair and protect it from sliding around in the trunk. If you are lifting the wheelchair into the back seat, use a rug or heavy blanket to cover the seat and keep it from getting dirty or snagged.
Check the weight of the wheelchair and make sure it does not exceed the recommended weight for lifting. If the wheelchair is too heavy to lift safely, consider using a van ramp or vehicle lift instead. It’s better to play it safe than risk injuring your back.
A wheelchair van ramp can be installed semi-permanently or used as a portable ramp for temporary or occasional use. A manual ramp requires a little more effort to use but is cheaper and easier to install than a powered ramp or lift.
A poor fitting wheelchair is one of the main reasons that a disabled or aging individual resists using a wheelchair. A poorly fitted wheelchair is uncomfortable, difficult to use, and can result in strain or injury. Here are a few tips on making sure the wheelchair is a right fit for the user:
Look for a wheelchair with the correct seating measurements for the user. The seat width, height, and depth should allow the user to sit comfortably, with no strain or pinching on the user’s back, legs, and hips. Although seat width and seat depth are fixed, some manual wheelchairs allow for adjustment to the seat height.
To find the correct seat width, measure the width of the user’s hips. Then add a couple of inches to allow for wiggle room and heavy clothing.
If the wheelchair includes adjustable height leg riggings, you can adjust the height of the riggings to find the right seat height. When the seat is adjusted correctly, it should not pinch the back of the knees or place too much weight on the buttocks. The thighs should be parallel with the seat.
If the user will be self-propelling the wheelchair with their feet, look for a wheelchair with a hemi height setting. The seat height should be low enough for the user to comfortably reach the floor and scoot around with their feet.
Correct seat depth allows for proper posture and prevents the edge of the seat from pinching the back of the user’s knees (if the seat is too deep) or causing the user’s weight to fall on the thighs (if the seat is too narrow). As a guideline, there should be no more than two inches between the edge of the seat and the back of the user’s knee. For proper posture, the user’s pelvis should be all the way to the back of the seat so that the back of the pelvis touches the seat back.
“Only had to remove packing materials, slide on the foot supports and the chair was ready to roll—chair is easy to push and maneuvers easily. The fabric is really nice and the seat is padded with a slim pocket on the chair back. My family was shocked at the price because it looks like more expensive chairs.”
- Connie G.
“Great looking chair! It came so rapidly it was surprising. Wonderful product, and wonderful service.”
- Dawn R.
“Fairly light weight, legs are easy to adjust and reattach, has been essential to use for transport, and I was able to maneuver it fairly well, even in snow!”
- Nancy S.
“Great product, and the best part is that it took me like a minute to put it together. It was well packaged and the overall appearance is just wonderful.”
- Darling P.
“It is light and easy to use. Only its small wheels prove to be in trouble in old streets of New York. You have to get off sometimes. But it is light and easy to navigate on smooth surface. We are satisfied with it. It is very good other than that disadvantage.”
- Xiaojun D.
“The chair was as described and has been very useful for getting me around the city while my leg wound healed before getting back into my prosthetic leg. The lighter weight made it easy to get into the car.”
- Leon S.
One way to transport a manual wheelchair is to load it into the trunk of your vehicle. Lower profile vehicles make it easier to load and unload a wheelchair, since you don’t have to lift the chair as high. No matter what type of vehicle you have or how heavy the wheelchair is, it’s important to use proper lifting techniques to load the wheelchair into a vehicle.
For vans, SUVs, and other vehicles with enough clearance, you can either lift the wheelchair into the vehicle or use a van ramp to roll the wheelchair up the ramp and into the vehicle with less effort.
When it comes to choosing a manual chair, you have two basic options: a standard wheelchair or a transport chair. For users who want the best of both options, a combination wheelchair/transport chair is available. Each type of chair has its own benefits. See below to find out which wheelchair is best for your needs.
A wheelchair can be pushed by the user or by a companion. The large rear wheels make it easier to push the chair over curbs and obstacles, and they smooth out the ride on rough terrain. Since a wheelchair is more comfortable and easier to customize, it’s generally a better choice for users who spend the majority of their day in a wheelchair.
A transport wheelchair is designed to be pushed by a companion, although some people use their feet to shuffle around the house while sitting in the chair. Since a transport chair is lighter in weight than a standard wheelchair, it is easier to lift and move, especially when lifting into the trunk or backseat of a vehicle. With a folding backrest and seat and smaller wheels, a transport chair folds into a compact size for storage, which is especially convenient when the chair is used mainly for occasional doctor appointments, shopping trips, and other outings.
A combination wheelchair/transport chair is the solution for individuals who need both a wheelchair and transport chair but who want to save on expenses and on the amount of equipment they need to buy. The combination wheelchair gives you more versatility for the best of both worlds.
When it comes to choosing between a manual wheelchair or power chair, the choice is not always an easy one. A number of factors come into play, including your insurance coverage, your budget, your upper body strength and endurance, and your need to transport the chair easily.
Manual wheelchairs require the user or caregiver to push the chair. For users who spend most of their time in a wheelchair, being able to propel the wheelchair by themselves is important for their sense of independence.
Pushing a manual wheelchair requires physical effort, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. For one, it strengthens your upper body and improves your physical fitness and endurance. On the other hand, if you have limited strength and endurance, propelling a wheelchair can sap all your energy pretty quickly. Also, there is the possibility that long-term manual wheelchair use may lead to overuse injuries that affect your shoulders, wrists, or elbows.
A manual wheelchair is lighter in weight, more reliable, easier to transport, more affordable, and more access-friendly than a power wheelchair. Even if you use a power wheelchair, it may be a good idea to have a manual wheelchair on hand in case your power chair breaks down.
Power wheelchairs allow you to go long distances without tiring. They make mobility and independence possible for users at any level of strength, ability, and endurance. They can be modified as needed if your needs change over time, and the power seating options allow you to tilt, recline, and adjust positions at the touch of a button.
The downside is that power wheelchairs are more expensive than manual chairs. Users who pay out of pocket may find the price a bit too steep. They are also larger, bulkier, and heavier, which means they are difficult to transport. They are less reliable than manual wheelchairs and can be expensive to repair.
Manual vs. Power Wheelchairs
|Manual Wheelchair||Power Wheelchair|