People who shop for wheelchairs for the first time are usually overwhelmed by the various choices. Most new wheelchair users get their first wheelchair from the following sources:
- a hand-me-down wheelchair from someone they know
- a rental from a wheelchair company that contracts with their insurance company
- a wheelchair prescription from their doctor which they fill at a medical supply store
- at a wheelchair clinic with advice from an experienced occupational therapist, physical therapist or mobility consultant
Every new wheelchair user will have different features and needs in mind. You will find it helpful to consult with your doctor or occupational/physical therapist before making your first purchase. Your wheelchair purchase should take your age, gender, body type (weight/size) and any physical specifications - such as level of endurance, missing limbs and body limitations - into consideration.
The following questions will provide a basic focus when shopping for wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories:
- Will I be using my wheelchair indoor or outdoor?
- What kinds of everyday activities will I do with my wheelchair (sports, shopping)?
- What forms of transportation do I have access to (car, van, none)?
- How many hours per day will I be in my wheelchair?
- How will I use my wheelchair in my home (do I need a wheelchair lift or wheelchair ramp)?
- Will I have someone to assist me with my wheelchair (weight/size)?
- What kind of surfaces are in my neighborhood (gravel, pavement, carpet, sand)?
In addition, you will need to consider a variety of wheelchair features:
- If speed is important, you may prefer an electric wheelchair over a manual wheelchair.
- Wheelchair Color - Choose a hue that will best suit your wardrobe and personal taste.
- Wheelchair Joystick - You can choose right or left-hand, fixed or swing-away mounting.
- Wheelchair Batteries - Available as either gel or wet batteries.
- Wheelchair Tires - Choose the proper wheelchair tires to match your driving conditions.
- Wheelchair Leg Rests - Varieties include swing-away, drop-in, elevating or platform leg rests, plus footplates in a range of sizes.
- Wheelchair Seating - Power functions are available such as elevating, tilt, or recline.
- Wheelchair Armrests - Height-adjustable, flip-back, removable, etc.
- Wheelchair Seat Cushion - Do you prefer gel, air or foam cushions and how will you position them?
- Wheelchair Accessories - Seat belts, cup holders, personal touches, etc.