All Wheelchairs Have These Common Qualities
Every wheelchair has certain traits: wheels, a seat, cushions, and a weight, for example. The differences in each of these traits are what make each model unique.
1. Seat size
Each wheelchair seat is sized to accommodate a weight range. Standard chairs seat up to 300 pounds.
2. Chair weight
As you might guess, a lighter chair is a hot commodity. Lighter chairs are easier to port and lift, not to mention get around in. Wheelchairs are classified by weight into the following categories.
Manual Wheelchairs for Adults
Category 1: Standard or basic. 39 pounds and up including footrests and removable arms. Intended for basic users.
Category 2: Lightweight. 25 to 38 pounds including footrests and removable arms. Intended for active users.
Category 3: Lightweight active. 25 to 38 pounds including removable armrests, adjustable of center of gravity, and quick release anti-tippers, axles, and footrests. Intended for very active users.
Category 4: Ultra light. Less than 25 pounds including removable armrests, adjustable of center of gravity, and quick release anti-tippers, axles, and footrests. These models are rigid and non-folding and are intended for very active users.
Pediatric wheelchairs include categories 2, 3, and 4 described above, plus:
Category 5: Manual dynamic tilt. These wheelchairs are heavier with all of the removable gear, but t they are designed for users who cannot shift their weight and so need a tilting seat to mitigate against that problem.
Category 6: Pediatric. Specialized pediatric wheelchairs have strollers and wheelbases which interface with the specialized seating system of the user.
Power Wheelchairs for Adults
Category 1: Basic. Basic power wheelchairs are intended for use by those who need to navigate on mostly hard, flat surfaces indoors. A basic user does not need too much in the way of high end electronics or customization. Most basic power wheelchairs are foldable for transportation. Standard features of a basic power wheelchair include a proportional joystick, swingaway footrests, and removable height adjustable armrests.
Category 2: Moderate. These power wheelchairs can accommodate customization to electronics, major modifications, special controls and switch options, and other adaptive accessories. These are for users who need some customization and more options.
Category 3: Advanced/specialty. These power wheelchairs are for users who require current or future need of power tilt and/or power recline, customization to electronics, extreme modifications, and specialty controls.
Pediatric Power Wheelchairs
Categories 1, 2, and 3 described just above all apply for pediatric use, but there is also a fourth category here:
Category 4: Manual dynamic tilt. This type of pediatric power wheelchair provides manual dynamic tilt for the user who cannot use seating components alone to maintain a functional posture.
3. seat height
The standart seat height for a wheelchair is 20 to 21 inches off the ground. This height works for anyone who is 5 feet tall all or taller. If you are shorter you will need a non-standart seat height to be sure you can easily set in and out of your wheelchair.
4. Leg Rests/Foot Rests
There are two kinds of leg or foot rests. Swingaway removable foot rests are the standard type found on most chairs. Elevating removable foot rests still swing away and are removable, but also allow you to raise your legs 90 degrees.
Armrests provide support for your arms and shoulders. There are three kinds of armrests: the standard full or desk length armrests, height adjustable armrests, and removable or flip-back armrests.
Full length armrests are 15 inches long and run the full length of your seat. Desk length armrests are only 11 inches long and are designed to let you get closer to your desk or table so you can work more easily. Height adjustable armrests allow you to adjust their height based on your own body’s measurements. Finally, removable or flip-back armrests can make it easier to transfer in and out of your wheelchair because they either come off or flip up, just like it sounds.
Almost all wheelchairs are designed with “flat free” rubber tires now, so this worry is no longer such an issue. The various tire sizes for most wheelchairs and scooters range from 7 inches by 2 inches, which is to say that they are 7 inches in diameter with 2 inch rims, up to 26 inches in diameter with either 2 inch rims or fatter rims for some uses. These larger wheels are mostly for active models as they add stability, and the thicker rims are often for outdoor wheeling.
All wheelchairs come with a seat; usually the seat is 1½ inches thick and made of either fabric or vinyl. Most users spend enough time in their wheelchair that they need to invest in a high-quality cushion. There are three basic kinds of seat cushions:
- Comfort cushions: These are made of gel or foam and provide comfort.
- Positioning cushions: These are sculpted and contoured to elicit the right posture from the user.
- Preventative cushions: These are typically air or gel and are designed to prevent bed sores.
Many users require other types of cushions, such as back and neck cushions to support posture and comfort.