Buying a wheelchair is a lot like buying a car. Whether it’s your first wheelchair or your fourth, buying a wheelchair is a huge purchase to consider. After all, with manual wheelchairs costing around $5,000 and power wheelchairs costing at least $20,000, it truly is like buying a car.
When choosing the right wheelchair for your needs, there are two things you must consider before anything else: comfort and function. These two aspects are the most important things to think about when choosing a wheelchair. Does the chair make your life easier, and is it comfortable? These are two things you’ll always want to think about in the back of your mind while purchasing a wheelchair. You will also need to meet with an Occupational Therapist to get measured for the right seating.
Quality: You’ll also want to look for a wheelchair that is high quality. After all, you don’t want your wheelchair falling apart on you: your wheelchair is your “legs” and should function as well as possible. Always do your research and ask around instead of going with whichever wheelchair your rehab professional recommends. There are dozens of wheelchair manufacturers out there, so you want to be as informed as possible before making your purchase.
Function: Along with high quality parts, you will want to make sure your wheelchair is as functional as possible. Instead of having air in your tires, you can purchase gel-filled tires, which are impossible to pop. This, however, makes your wheels slightly heavier, so if you plan on pushing yourself, gel-filled tires may not be the best option. Also, will you need armrests? What kind of seating will you need? Think of all of these aspects before making your purchase.
You’ll also need to meet with a rehab specialist for their recommendation. A recommendation is needed for your insurance. After you consult with a medical professional, you should next meet with a sales rep/vendor from the wheelchair companies you are interested in. You can always work with a salesperson from a medical supply company to pick the right wheelchair for you. With this method, you can borrow a wheelchair for a few days as a trial run, which is a great way to test a chair’s functionality in your everyday life.
Remember, don’t get overwhelmed! There are a lot of wheelchair companies/models to choose from, but this doesn’t mean you need to stress. While it’s good to have a lot of choices, you’ll definitely need some help picking the right chair for you. Always make sure to meet with a rehab specialist before buying a wheelchair. They will help you consider aspects that you may not have even realized were important when buying a wheelchair.
Dimensions: The dimensions of your wheelchair, powered or manual, are also important. Consider the home you’ll be going back to; additionally, if you have an adapted van or a car, you want to make sure your chair is the right size to fit inside your vehicle. The wheelchair needs to be fitted to you precisely. This will help you when pushing yourself, and it will preserve your shoulders in the long-run. Also, think about your chair’s knee height so you are able to roll under restaurant tables, desks, etc. without hitting your knees.
There are hundreds of styles of manual wheelchairs, from lightweight wheelchairs made from titanium to wheelchairs that come with power-assist wheels, allowing quadriplegics to independently push their own wheelchairs. Quickie, Tilite, Colours, and Spinergy are some of the most popular manual wheelchair companies in the United States.
There are many things to consider when buying a manual wheelchair. How high do you want your backrest? Will you need armrests? Will you be removing the wheelie bars in the back of the wheelchair? All of this, of course, depends on your level of injury and how well you balance in your wheelchair.
The materials your wheelchair is made out of are incredibly important because these materials affect the weight of your chair. Titanium and alloy are two very lightweight metals that make wheelchairs lighter and, ultimately, a lot easier to push. When it comes to gauging how well you are pushing in your wheelchair, they always say, “It’s all about the glide.” Pushing your wheelchair should feel comfortable, and it shouldn’t feel too heavy.
Having proper balance in your chair is also essential. You want to make sure your balance is on-point so you can push your chair as easily as possible. Most paraplegics will use manual wheelchairs, as well as low-level quadriplegics; the latter are able to use this type of chair because of proper fitting and good balance, as well as push-assist devices that help the wheels turn.
Buying a power wheelchair is even more stressful because of the price. You’ll want to make sure to do your research before choosing a powerchair. Many people like power wheelchairs from Invacare, but these are no longer covered by the government. Quickie and Permobile are two top powerchair brands to look into, instead.
Don’t forget that, no matter what kind of wheelchair you buy, your chair must fit you exactly the way you want it to. Long-term use of a poor-fitted wheelchair can result in postural problems and skin breakdown.
Please watch the award-winning 53 minute video below on how to buy a wheelchair. This video includes interviews with experts, doctors, and rehab specialists. Afterwards, please check out our takeaway points and helpful links below. We wish you luck in buying your wheelchair!
Remember that wheelchair purchases, repairs, and items that are needed for employment can be covered in full by Vocational Rehab. If you need to seek an additional funding source for purchasing your wheelchair, be sure to contact the VR agency in your state. You can find a directory here.
- Buy a quality wheelchair to ensure your chair doesn’t break down a lot
- Make sure your wheelchair functions well for you
- Have your wheelchair properly fitted so you can sit pain-free all day
- Meet with a rehab specialist first before meeting with a vendor to discuss your needs
- Make sure the dimensions of your wheelchair will fit your home and vehicle
- You can test a wheelchair for a few days before purchasing to see if it’s the right chair for you
- Wheelchair Selection: How to choose a new wheelchair – Wheelchairnet – http://www.wheelchairnet.org/wcn_prodserv/consumers/selectwc.html
- Tips for Choosing the Right Wheelchair – NW Regional SCI System – http://sci.washington.edu/info/forums/reports/wheelchair_choosing.asp
- A guide to wheelchair selection – United Spinal – http://www.spinalcord.org/resource-center/askus/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=1412