According to the National Institutes of Health, there are approximately 2.7 million wheelchair users in the United States. These devices offer many advantages to those who need them. Wheelchairs afford independence, allow for social activities, and can be central to mental health and wellbeing.
Even if you do not rely on one every day, wheelchairs can provide temporary help after an injury or surgery. Selecting the right one for your needs and budget is important. Fortunately, wheelchair reviews can help in making this decision.
If you are considering purchasing a wheelchair for yourself or a loved one, you want a safe, reliable product. There are a lot of wheelchairs to choose from. Below is a breakdown of the general options you have, as well as some recommendations within each category.
Basic Wheelchair Features
Before digging into wheelchair specifics, there are a few general characteristics to consider. Although there are exceptions, these are relative to almost all wheelchair products.
The type of wheels you will want on your chair depends on what you will be using it for. For basic mobility, standard wheels are fine. But there are other features to think about.
If you plan to self-propel, push-rims on the rear or “drive” wheels are a must. And quick-release wheels are handy for easy disassembly and transportation.
Tires are also something to consider. Usually, the more puncture-resistant the tires, the less smooth of a ride. And, depending on the types of surfaces you will be riding on, the tread of the tires is important for stability.
Remember that not all chairs accommodate every type of wheel. So, if you think you may need different wheels for various functions, be sure you are selecting a model of chair that is compatible with them.
Footrests and Armrests
If you are new to wheelchairs, functions of footrests and armrests may not front-and-center on your radar. But the ability to adjust these can make all the difference when it comes to comfort and convenience.
Some footrests only swing outwards, while others can be turned either outwards or inwards. And adjustability is a big factor, especially if you are someone who is very tall or short.
Most wheelchairs have detachable armrests, but not all of them are adjustable. The ability to lower the armrest, for example, can help with accessing dining tables without hassle. These small details can help you get a lot more enjoyment out of your chair.
Comfort, Transportability, and Storage
These traits go hand-in-hand because the ease with which you can move a wheelchair around or stow it is inversely proportional to comfort. But there are a lot of chairs that can provide both. The amount of each feature will depend on your lifestyle and needs.
If you will be sitting in the wheelchair for many hours, you will want to ensure there is enough cushioning. If you are someone who is always on the go, the advantages of having a lighter, transportable chair may outweigh the need for a cushy, heavy one. Fortunately, most chairs are somewhere between the two extremes.
First, there are two main categories of wheelchairs: manual and motorized. Very basically, a manual wheelchair can be self-propelled–using one’s arms–or pushed by another person. Motorized wheelchairs use an electric power system to move.
For people who are unable to push the wheelchair themselves, there are also “transport” or “transit” chairs. These have four small wheels and are pushed by attendants. They are usually very basic and have little options for adjusting seat, arm, or leg rests.
Among self-propelled manual wheelchairs, there are four categories: standard, lightweight, ultra-lightweight, and bariatric. Bariatric chairs are heavier, weighing in at 40 to 60 pounds. But they are very sturdy and will last a long time. They are a great option for larger people.
Here are some basic information and wheelchair reviews for the other categories of wheelchair.
A standard wheelchair has two larger wheels–usually 20 to 26 inches–on the back, and two smaller ones up front for maneuverability. They are basic in function, but the advantage is that they are also the most affordable.
These chairs are often made of steel, which makes them heavier. In fact, they can come in at close to 40 pounds. But they are very durable and can last a decade or more, even with heavy usage.
The Drive Medical Silver Sport 2 is a great standard wheelchair, that is long-lasting and durable. It has vinyl upholstery that is easy to maintain. It weighs right at 40 pounds and has a weight capacity of 350 pounds.
This wheelchair usually sells for over $300, which is a bit high for the standard category. But, you can often find it on sale for under $250, which makes it an excellent value.
Lightweight wheelchairs, as their name suggests, are much lighter and more transportable than standard wheelchairs. They will weigh in the low 30s, and are often easy to fold up and transport. They are a happy medium between performance and price.
The NOVA Lightweight is the gold-standard in the lightweight wheelchair category. It is ideal for transport since it folds easily and is very compact. It weighs only 27.5 pounds and has a carrying capacity of 300 pounds.
It has rugged rubber wheels that are good for a variety of terrains, including slopes and uneven surfaces. It also has adjustable footrests that are easy to remove.
The NOVA Lightweight is approximately $300 new, which makes it a very affordable option in the lightweight category.
Ultralight wheelchairs weigh under 30 pounds, and can even weigh as little as 13 pounds. They also will have many ergonomic features and are the go-to chairs for sports and heavy recreational users
The Featherweight Wheelchair is a versatile lightweight chair in this category. It weighs 13.5 pounds and can support 250 pounds.
Although there are chairs that are much lighter, this is considered a moderate-duty wheelchair for its class. It is sturdy and reliable and comes with a lot of bells and whistles.
And it is collapsable and compact, so you can fit it in almost any transport space. You can adjust almost every aspect of this chair, from arm and leg rests, to seat height. It includes heel straps that offer extra foot support.
It has a great deal of onboard storage, as well as a safety belt. It has 22 inch rear wheels that have a lot of tread on them. It is a great chair for outdoor terrains.
It is also very affordable. You can sometimes find it in the low $500s.
800WheelChair is also a very popular, reputable company headquartered in New York. They are known for making quality products and for unparalleled customer service.
Utilize Wheelchair Reviews
Now that you have a sense of the many wheelchair options available, you can start looking for one that will fit your lifestyle and budget. There are a lot of options out there, so take the time to investigate the features of each product to make sure they meet your needs.
We hope this basic information and wheelchair reviews were helpful to you. Be sure to check out some of our other mobility product reviews, as well as our recommendations on where to buy various products.