Blog > June 2017 > What You Need to Know About Choosing the Perfect Wheelchair

What You Need to Know About Choosing the Perfect Wheelchair



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Purchasing a brand-new wheelchair is a huge decision and it’s important to make a choice that suits your lifestyle, disability, budget and environment. The enormous range of powered wheelchairs and manual wheelchairs on the market can make buying a wheelchair seem like an overwhelming task. Fortunately, taking the time to do some research can simplify the process.

There’s also the option to contact Sunrise Medical and talk with an expert about your configuration requirements and general preferences, to help you pick a wheelchair perfect for you!

Important factors to consider when purchasing the perfect wheelchair for you

The primary functions of your wheelchair are to increase your mobility and maximise your comfort.

It’s important that you consider your mobility requirements to make sure you’re able to move easily from your wheelchair into seats, beds and toilets. When considering a wheelchair, you should also try to account for any future changes in your mobility or a possible deterioration of your physical health.

Your wheelchair choice will be influenced by your physical proportions; specifically; your weight and size. Generally, your wheelchair’s seat should have a width that is 2cm-4cm greater than the width of your hips to ensure your comfort. Another important thing to remember is to purchase a wheelchair that is within your weight limit. Australian wheelchair dealers and distributors are required to list the maximum weight that each powered and manual wheelchair model can safely support.

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The most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing a wheelchair is your own individual preferences and requirements. Firstly, if you will be regularly folding your wheelchair, it’s a good idea to search for a wheelchair that doesn’t take up much room and can be folded without using tools. If you are regularly involved in sport or other recreational activities, a lightweight and mobile wheelchair would be the best option.

However, there are also specific sport wheelchairs available that are specifically for sports. A wheelchair with folding footrests is the preferred configuration for people who are regularly navigating tight spaces. You might prefer to have a wheelchair that is rigid or folding and this a decision that is all up to your personal preferences! Wheelchair dealers offer a huge range of accessories to personalise and configure your wheelchair for different situations, including: supports, kerb climbers and brake extensions.

It is also important to consider the environment you will be mainly using your wheelchair in. If you’re planning on spending most of your time indoors, a compact and mobile wheelchair is the most suitable option for you. Alternatively, you might want to purchase a wheelchair that has a combination of indoor and outdoor features if you’re frequently travelling over rougher surfaces. These features could include a suspension frame, pneumatic tyres or mountain tyres that improve outdoor travel performance.

Wheelchairs are modular and individually configurable which means that you can personalise and adapt your wheelchair for your own needs which may change over time. With the ability to adjust seat size, seating position, backrests, wheel size or types and attach or detach other accessories as needed, you can adapt your wheelchair for your needs!

Powered, manual and ultra-light wheelchairs

The enormous range of wheelchairs on the market reflects the diverse requirements and needs of wheelchair users. Before you purchase your wheelchair, you’ll have to decide if you want to use a powered wheelchair or manual wheelchair. When making this decision, the user’s level of independence and ability to propel themselves are two of the most important criteria to consider. Sunrise Medical’s QUICKIE wheelchairs offer a wide range of indoor and outdoor models - from compact powered wheelchairs to a collection of more durable alternatives.

If you decide to purchase a powered wheelchair, it’s imperative that you prioritise fitting to ensure your wheelchair is the perfect fit for you. The wheelchair’s drive-base is also an important consideration as it determines whether your wheelchair will have rear, mid or front-wheel drive. A rear wheel drive combines manoeuvrability and outdoor performance while a mid-wheel drive combines a small turning circle with indoor manoeuvrability. A front wheel drive can help you tackle those kerbs and off-road terrain. Another notable feature that you need to consider is the versatility of the control system and whether you’ll have the option to control other devices while seated in the wheelchair, including your television or music.

When people choose a manual wheelchair, the user’s level of independence and ability to propel themselves will affect whether they purchase a self-propelled or non-self-propelled wheelchair.

Self-propelled manual wheelchairs often use bigger rear wheels and are a favourite amongst users who wish to maintain a high degree of independence and personal mobility. Alternatively, non-self-propelled manual wheelchairs are equipped with smaller rear wheels and another person is required to push the wheelchair.

Sunrise Medical’s Quickie range offers a comprehensive selection of self-propelled and non-self-propelled manual wheelchairs that can be personalised to suit you!

The perfect wheelchair for you: Materials' choice

The features and suitability of your manual wheelchair will also be determined by the materials used in the wheelchair. The most common materials used in wheelchairs are:

Steel – One of the heaviest materials available which increases the wheelchair’s stability but can make it harder to move.

Aluminium – A lightweight material, making a wheelchair significantly easer to transport.

Titanium – A very strong and lightweight material.

Carbon Fibre – An ultralightweight material with remarkable levels of durability.

When purchasing a manual wheelchair, users will also need to decide if they want a rigid or foldable wheelchair. Rigid frame chairs don’t have hinges or folding joints, leading to a lighter chassis and reduces the amount of energy spent propelling the wheelchair.

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However, foldable wheelchairs are considerably easier to transport in a vehicle and highly adjustable for your individual needs.

Once you have found the perfect model and type of wheelchair that is the best option for you, you’ll have to begin the overwhelming task of choosing individual options. Some of these decisions include: choosing the wheel camber, sideguard fitting and accessory selection. To help simplify this complicated process, Sunrise Medical’s Built-4-Me team is on hand to help you choose and design your own fully personalised, hand-built and quality tested wheelchair.  

Purchasing the right wheelchair can lead to dramatic improvements in your mobility, independence and overall quality of life. Sunrise Medical’s huge range of wheelchairs gives everyone the chance to find the perfect wheelchair, regardless of your needs or budget.

Contact us if you’d like more information about home assessments and the location of ‘Quickie’ dealerships. If you want to discuss any other wheelchair considerations or have further questions, please contact one of our qualified staff to talk through any questions you may have and help find solutions for you.