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4 Features You Have To Consider When Buying A Wheelchair
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Wheelchairs are one of the most popular assistive devices for improving personal mobility. For many people, the ability to move freely and easily is an essential precondition to enjoying and living a dignified life. The wheelchair, along with other assistive devices, has allowed people with disabilities to become active contributors to their community rather than being passive receivers.
It is estimated that over 65 million people all over the world require the use of a wheelchair for mobility. Unfortunately, only a minority have access to wheelchairs and an even small number are able to use the appropriate type for their condition.
No single wheelchair can meet the requirements of all users, and the diversity of wheelchair users has created a need for multiple types of wheelchairs. If you are thinking of getting one, there are a few things that you will have to consider before you can properly select the right one for your needs.
Wheelchairs come in a wide variety of models and sizes, from your standard temporary wheelchair to the sophisticated custom-built models. Here are a few features to consider when selecting a wheelchair.
There are many kinds of wheelchair wheels, depending on the user's mobility requirements and capabilities. Custom-made wheels can be made with carbon fibre spokes, which are extremely light, but also very pricey. Most wheelchairs have either spoked wheel rims or MAG-type wheel rims. MAG-type wheelchairs have moulded plastic rims that have fewer spokes.
Wheelchair tyres are either made of solid rubber or pneumatic. Solid rubber tyres are practically resistant to punctures, but the ride can be a little more rigid. Meanwhile, pneumatic tyres are susceptible to punctures but offer a more comfortable ride.
Quite a lot of wheelchairs have quick release wheels at the rear of the chair. These have a button in the centre of the wheel rim that allows the rear wheel to be removed at the press of the button.
Another type of wheel you have to be familiar with is the anti-tip wheel. They can be found at the rear side of the wheelchair, and look like small wheels that are slightly lifted off the ground. Their purpose is to keep the wheelchair from tipping over backwards. Some people find them useful, but others see them more as a hindrance since they can restrict the angle the wheelchair can tip backwards when climbing over something.
Wheelchair footrests are either fixed or removable, but most models have removable footrests. The height of the footrest can be adjusted to allow the user determine their preferred position. Some footrests have other features such as calf and heel straps and some can even be elevated for additional comfort.
The armrest is an essential component of the wheelchair. They allow the user to improve their balance while on the chair, improve user comfort, and help maintain the user's core stability. Depending on the wheelchair type, some armrests can be removed while some can only be adjusted at an angle. Removable armrests are especially useful when the user has to be transferred in and out of the wheelchair often.
Armrests come in a variety of lengths to suit different user needs. Some models allow the user to rest the full length of the arms, while others only allow half of their span. Wheelchairs with half-length armrests are mostly used for table seating.
Most wheelchair brakes are located just below the armrests, allowing for easy reach by the user. Brakes are not standardised, however, and some brakes have to be pushed forwards while some have to be pulled backwards. It all boils down to user preference or capabilities.
Some wheelchair models have the brakes near the push handles for immediate use by the attendant. These are often found in hospital wheelchairs since the attendant has to be in full control of the wheelchair.
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