If you are living with a disability and need a wheelchair, there are many types on the market to choose from. Before you make a purchase, though, it’s important to understand the various models and their features, so you can pick a different types of wheelchairs that will best meet your body and lifestyle needs.
Basic: A basic wheelchair comes with the essential components, including foot and leg rests, and desk-length arms. The seat width range is typically between 16 to 20 inches.
Lightweight: Lightweight wheelchairs are designed for people who plan to travel with the chairs. These varieties usually include the option for an adjustable back height and quick-release wheel removal.
Bariatric: For patients who are bigger and cannot fit into the width of a basic wheelchair, bariatric chairs are the best option. These types are constructed to support up to 700 pounds, and they typically come in widths ranging between 24 and 30 inches.
Recliner: Similar to bariatric chairs, recliner chairs are designed for patients with larger frames. However, they also have the additional feature of a reclining back. This is to help redistribute a person’s weight, so the chair is safer and more comfortable to use.
Active: Active wheelchairs are made for disabled athletes. They feature a lightweight frame with extensive detail to the design. There are also many accessories and options on the market that can be added to this type of wheelchair, depending on the intended sport.
When purchasing a wheelchair, it’s important to find a model that fits your body and matches your everyday needs. Different types of Wheelchair are:
Heavy duty wheelchair
These are designed specifically to hold patients whose weight is greater than 250 lbs, but less than 300 lbs. The patients weight must be included on the Rx and in the office visit notes.
This is a standard wheelchair that is configured to assist the patient in easier self-propelling inside the home. It does not necessarily weight any less than a standard wheelchair and is not meant to be prescribed as a way to assist caregivers in transporting patients outside the home.
Extra heavy duty
This chair is designed for patients who weight greater than 300 lbs. Again, the patients weight must be documented on the Rx and the office visit notes. If patients weight cannot be obtained, this must be documented.
A transport wheelchair has 4 small wheels. The patient cannot self-propel and a caregiver must be available to assist the patient inside the home. Documentation is required in the office notes to explain why the patient cannot self-propel and that a caregiver is available.
A Standard Wheelchair has large rear wheels which allows the patient to self-propel around the home. This is commonly referred to as a manual wheelchair. However, under Medicare guidelines a “manual wheelchair” is any wheelchair that is not battery powered.
Rear wheel drive
The drive system is located towards the rear of the power wheelchair with casters in the front. Having the drive in the rear allows for greater maneuverability, even while traveling at higher speeds. It does have a larger turning radius, so it will need more space to make turns. Rear wheel drive system has directional stability, meaning that it naturally tracks straight so it is less sensitive to oversteering. It also maneuvers well over rough, outdoor terrain.
Front wheel drive
The drive system is located towards the front of the seat. The drive wheels are in the front and the casters in the rear. Front wheel drive power wheelchairs can go over bumps and curbs up to 2″ high. It does not have the smallest turning radius but maneuvers very well around tight corners. It is a stable ride when traveling up and down slopes if the battery is located at the rear of the chair (to balance the load with the front wheels). Although this chair is known for providing good stability, it can fishtail when turning at high speeds.
Mid wheel drive
Also known as “center drive,” the drive system for this power wheelchair is located in the center of the wheelchair, below the seat. These chairs boost the tightest turning radius of the three drives and are great for use in apartments, malls and anywhere space is limited. It is very easy to maneuver indoors or on flat surfaces outdoors. It does not maneuver as well over rough terrain. It can sink and lose traction traveling over soft terrain but is stable when traveling on an incline. Usually, an accessible van or vehicle lift is required to transport the chair from one place to another as it is not easily transportable. Mid wheel drive system power chairs are generally only available for weight capacities up to 600 lb.
Another highly specialized design, these are almost always made from PVC or hollow aluminum tubes, with almost cartoonishly large wheels to make it easier to traverse the sand. Just because you have mobility issues doesn’t mean you have to be limited in the things you can do or enjoy!
This is another highly-specialized type of chair, expressly designed with obese patients in mind. Constructed on a sturdier frame with a wider seat, these chairs provide the full range of mobility options to people who suffer from extreme weight issues.
An ergonomic wheelchair is the most used chair with the synthesis of a standard, manual wheelchair, with an ergonomic office chair with superior support of lumbaristic. They’re ideal chairs for people who spend extended periods of time while sitting.
An exceptional niche designed, offering all the benefits of a recliner, rolled into a wheelchair. These designs come with a pillow to offer greater comfort when resting in a reclined position. While it’s possible to nap in chairs of this type, you’ll almost certainly want extra padding if this is your intention.
Manual wheelchairs with one arm drive
If there’s one disadvantage of manual wheelchairs, it is that the user, needs of both arms to propel the chair. Manual wheelchairs with one arm drive solves this problem by connecting the two wheels by a specially-shaped axle, allowing you to move forward using only one arm.
Sports (racing) wheelchairs
There are two basic variants in this category. Sports wheelchairs are constructed the same way as a just like the standard wheelchair, except as that of the large rear wheels are angled in toward the seat, allowing for tighter turns, and enabling users to engage in a full range of sports activities (tennis, basketball, etc.).
As the name already suggests this types of wheelchairs is designed for use at the time of standing. Most models allow for reconfiguration so they can be utilized in both seated and standing positions. While not the most technically advanced design currently available, this type of chair has the distinction of turning the user into a kind of living Transformer, just like in the movies!
In the world of wheelchairs, this type of chair can even reclining or tilt wheelchairs. They both accomplish the same primary goal, although they achieve it via different sort of means.
Lightweight Wheelchairs are, as their name implies, significantly lighter than their mainstream counterparts. To accomplish this, they make certain concessions, including a shortened seat back, and being constructed with lighter-weight materials.
An intriguing design not typically purchased for home use, but used by EMTs and hospital professionals. It is one of the lightweight types of wheelchair that can move to 180 degrees, effectively becoming a stretcher when the catch is released. In the picture below, note the presence of two sets of handles.
Electric wheelchairs are one of the most popular types of wheelchairs because they can easily allow people with higher and more freedom of mobility without having to rely on a nurse or other type of assistant, except perhaps for getting into the chair. These play as one of the best types of wheelchairs for cerebral palsy sufferers, and people with similar mobility-restricting conditions. They’re significantly more expensive than their manual counterparts but well worth the extra expense!
This is another niche product, primarily used by airlines to facilitate transport of people who have disabilities, but if you have mobility issues and travel frequently, you can certainly invest in one privately as well.
It is smaller and lighter than any of the manual wheelchairs, which is being designed to pass between the rows of seats on an airplane, and come with safety buckles so that you can buckle up while in flight, just like all the other passengers.