Are you looking for a new manual wheelchair but feel a little overwhelemed by the process? Making the decision to buy a wheelchair can be a difficult one. Whether you have age-related issues or reduced mobility, it can be hard to accept a little extra help. The good news is that there are so many wheelchair options to make this transition as simple as possible. The bad news is that navigating all the different options can be a little confusing.
This is where we come in. We have developed an in-depth guide to help you every step of the way. Everything that you need to know about buying, using and maintaining your wheelchair has been researched and put together all in one place. With Surf’n’Buy’s guide to the top five manual wheelchairs, you are guaranteed to find an option which suits your needs down to the ground.
Now take a look at our list of five best manual wheelchairs in 2020.
Top 5 Manual Wheelchairs
1. Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair
- Flip-back, desk-length arms make it easy to navigate under tables | elevating leg rests enhance comfort and remove easily
- Breathable nylon upholstery is soft and comfortable
- Premium welds ensure reliability and durability
- Smooth-rolling Mag wheels with low-maintenance flat-free tires; foot-powered movement with 2” seat-height adjustments (hemi-height)
- 300-Lb. Weight capacity | 33-lb. Product weight, without leg rests. Latex free; Not MRI safe
Let’s jump right in with the first wheelchair on our list. If you’re looking for the best quality manual wheelchair, but also the best value, look no further than the Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair. This chair is lightweight and highly customizable and that’s what makes this chair perfect for those who want a long-term use chair, or simply just a chair to get from the house to the car.
It is highly maneuverable and built with comfort and durability in mind, so it is perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. Its high weight limit means that this chair can support you no matter who you are, remaining light enough for carers and family members to propel it with ease. Whatever your needs, Surf’n’Buy can assure you that the Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair will meet all of them.
- Adjustable leg rests enhance comfort for long-term use but can be removed easily to increase the amount of enjoyable legroom, as well as to relieve pressure and prevent swelling.
- With desk-length arms which provide plenty of support, but also flip back to make it easy to slide under tables, navigating desks is a thing of the past.
- Built with premium welds, you can be sure that the Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair will provide you with maximum durability.
- The nylon upholstery is soft and breathable, perfect for long-term use to avoid overheating and discomfort and very easy to clean.
- Specialized smooth-rolling Mag wheels combined with low-maintenance tires allow for both hand propulsion and foot movement, making this chair perfect for users of all capabilities.
- Two-inch height adjustments and 300-pound weight limit allow for customization to the user to maximize comfortability and movement.
- This chair is also latex free, so it is great for those who suffer from a latex allergy.
- The back rest can be adjusted to maximize comfortability, ideal for those with spinal injuries.
- For a lightweight chair, the Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair is still a little on the heavy side and can be difficult for smaller carers to manage.
- The footrests add a little extra width to the chair so that when they are attached, narrow hallways and tight corners can be difficult to navigate.
- Some consumers have noticed that the brake lever can become loose if not properly locked into place.
For those who are looking for a multi-purpose, highly customizable wheelchair that won’t skimp on support, then the Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair is the wheelchair for you. Its lightweight design, adjustable arms and legs, and comfortable fabrics make this chair the complete package for younger users, older users, permanent users and temporary users alike. This chair is the height of ergonomic and durable design, so you never have to worry about a second chair for outdoor use.
2. Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair
- Cutting-edge wheelchair design makes independent mobility enjoyable. Width open with 20 inch seat is 26 inch
- Detachable desk arms and premium swing-away leg rests provide customizable support. Seat-To-floor Height- 19.5 inches
- 18" padded nylon wheelchair seat ensures lasting comfort and is easy to clean
- Durable tires feature push-to-lock functionality for safety. Comes with calf strap
- Overall Dimensions: 42"(L) x 24"(W) x 36"(H); Closed Width: 12.5"; Seat Dimensions: 16"(D) x 18"(W) x 19.5"(H); Armrest Height: 8"; Weight Capacity: 250 lbs
Looking for a high-grade wheelchair without as high of a price? The Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair is a great, budget-friendly option without sacrificing quality. With a seat width of 20 inches, this wheelchair is a little on the bigger side, this makes it best suited for indoor use, but don’t worry, it is also sturdy enough to get you out and about.
A wide seat, high back, and adjustable leg rests ensure that you are comfortable and supported whilst you experience life with this wheelchair. With a highly customizable design, you can tailor it to your exact specifications. Its durability, ease of access, and quick locking safety feature combine to make it well-suited to independent wheelchair users who want a little more freedom.
- Swing away legs make this chair easy to get in and out of, whilst still providing superior support.
- Detachable arms mean that you can glide underneath tables and desks with ease.
- Mad with breathable nylon upholstery is comfortable and supportive, meaning no overheating which can make long-term use uncomfortable. Not only that, but this material is also very easy to clean up should you have any spills.
- The Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair is designed with highly durable, low-maintenance tires to minimize the time needed to maintain this wheelchair.
- A simple push-to-lock functionality keeps your safety as number one priority, making this chair perfect for users without helpers.
- Designed for manageability, this wheelchair is easy to fold up and store, folding down to half its original width of 24 inches so that you can easily get it into a car or into storage.
- This chair comes with removeable leg rests and an optional calf strap to ensure both the comfort and safety of the user. If you need a little extra support, this is the wheelchair for you.
- The maximum weight limit of the Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair is a little less than some of our other models. At only 250 pounds, this seat is designed for smaller users.
- This model is heavier than most standard models, coming in at 41 pounds. This can make it difficult to self-propel, and smaller or younger helpers may find it difficult to manage.
- The arms are too low for some standard sized cushions to fit comfortably into the chair. This can be avoided by ensuring that the measurements of your seat cushion match the seat of the wheelchair with about an inch to spare.
- The seat is not as deep as some common models and this can lead to a feeling of sliding forward, which can be uncomfortable for some users.
Before splashing the cash on more expensive models, this wheelchair is for those who want a bit more bang for their buck. The Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair is an excellent option to spare your wallet without lacking innovation, comfort and safety. This chair still offers everything you would expect from a standard model, winning it the title of Surf’n’Buy’s best value manual wheelchair.
3. Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair
- Weighs only 29 lbs
- Quick Release Wheels Standard
- Removable Anti Bacterial Seat and Back Cushions
- Flip Back Armrest and Height Adjustable. Storage pouch on backrest
- Seat Height Adjustable 18", 19", & 20".7 inch x 1 inch Polyurethane Front Casters
Our premium pick for manual wheelchairs goes to the Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair. This chair is the lightest of all options and is fully customizable to the needs of the patient. The s-shaped seat and larger arm rests fit to the natural curvatures of the body, making it the most comfortably designed wheelchair on our list. Available in two seat widths, 16 and 18 inches, and an adjustable back rest capable of 18, 19, and 20 inches, this wheelchair is ideal for people of all sizes.
Ergonomic hand rims increase comfort and flexibility to enhance mobility and decrease resistance when propelling the wheelchair. Flip back arm rests make transfers easier and allow the chair to glide under tables effortlessly. If you are looking for a premium quality mechanical wheelchair which will fit all needs and requirements, look no further than the Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair.
- The Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair is incredibly lightweight at only 29 lbs., making it perfect for self-propulsion and travel, as well as easy to carry and store.
- The seat and back cushions of the wheelchair is removable to promote easy cleaning and sanitation.
- The ergonomic design of all components makes this manual wheelchair the height of comfort and support.
- A storage pouch in the back rest allows you to keep things in the chair itself rather than carry extra bags.
- The sturdy brakes have a torsion spring to keep the pawl away from the wheel when not in use. This makes installing the rear wheels much easier, enhancing travel experiences.
- Quick release rear wheels make it easy to get started once you’ve stopped without sacrificing safety.
- The Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair has a 250 lbs. weight limit, so it is not as suitable for larger patients.
- The chair is very hard to find replacement parts for should something go wrong. This may be an issue for long-term users.
- There are a lot of plastic parts used in the manufacturing of this wheelchair. This can be an issue for durability if this chair is used on a permanent basis.
- There is no strap to pull the wheelchair into a folded position. This will require a lot of work alone, or someone to help you when attempting to move or store the wheelchair.
If you are looking for a premium quality wheelchair for a long-term wheelchair user, you’ve found it. The Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair is the height of innovation, comfort, and safety. Its lightweight body provides all of the independence needed for those who wish to self-propel, and an easy to manage option for helpers and family members.
4. Medline Excel Extra-Wide Wheelchair
- Seat Dimensions: 24" W x 18" D;Product is 36.75 inches tall.
- Arm Style: Desk Length Removable
- Leg Style: Swing Away Detachable Footrest
- Material: Navy Vinyl
- Weight Capacity: 500 lbs / Weight without Legrests: 60 lbs.WC Chair Type:Bariatric
For those who are looking for increased weight support, the Medline Excel Extra-Wide Wheelchair is a great option for you. The extra-wide seat and high weight limit makes this manual wheelchair perfect for big and tall patients. The sturdy carbon steel frame has a rust and chip resistant chrome plating to keep maintenance to a minimum. The vinyl upholstery is easy to clean, ensuring a high level of manageability and sanitation.
Detachable arms and swing-away leg rests means that this chair is easy to get in and out of, and slide under tables. The collapsible design is easy to use to transport the chair from A to B. This is great if you are an independent user who doesn’t want to rely on a carer all the time.
- The Medline Excel Extra-Wide Wheelchair has the highest weight limit of all wheelchairs in this guide, coming in at 500 lbs., making it perfect for all patients.
- Swing-away leg rests make it easy to get in and out of the wheelchair without help.
- Detachable arms make navigating tables and desks as seamless as possible.
- Vinyl upholstery is easy to client and maintain, making this wheelchair much more durable and sanitary.
- The collapsible design ensures simple storage and travel.
- The extra wide seat offers premium support for taller or heavier patients.
- At 60 lbs., the Medline Excel Extra-Wide Wheelchair is one of the heaviest models on the market. This can make self-propulsion difficult and smaller carers may struggle.
- Vinyl upholstery is not as breathable as nylon. This can increase the body temperature of the patient and promote discomfort.
- The tires do not have traction, which can make this chair less secure outdoors, especially in wet weather conditions.
- The extra wide design can be a blessing and a curse, as it makes it a little harder to navigate tight spaces and corners.
For those who need a larger chair due to the specific needs of the patient, this chair is ideal for all. The extra wide chair provides security and support with an ease of storage and transport for patients on the go. The vinyl upholstery ensures a high level of hygiene, so you know your patient’s needs are being completely fulfilled.
5. Medline Premium Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchair
- Flip-back, desk-length arms make it easy to sit at a table. Removable elevating leg rests enhance comfort, Gross weight 50.551 pounds
- Nylon upholstery is breathable and comfortable
- Premium welds ensure durability. Detachable footrest. Latex free
- Smooth-rolling mag wheels with low-maintenance flat-free tires | Foot-powered movement with 2” seat-height adjustments (hemi-height)
- 350 lbs. weight capacity | 31.5-lb. product weight, without leg rests | Seat dimensions are 22 x 18 inches
The Medline Premium Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchair is the perfect blend of ultralight design with a high level of support. Its 350 lbs. weight limit makes this chair best for a wide range of patients, whilst still being lightweight and manageable for patient and carer alike. The premium welds and flat-free tires ensure the durability of this chair to support the patient and keep maintenance to a minimum. Standard flip-back arms and the possibility of foot-powered movement, this chair is ideal for users who want a little more independence.
This wheelchair is available in four different sizes, 16 x 16 inches, 18 x 16 inches, 20 x 18 inches and 22 x 18 inches, so you can be sure you will find the right size for your needs.
- Available in four different size variations, you are assured to find the right size for you.
- Nylon upholstery is soft and breathable to enable long-term use and heightened comfortability.
- Quick release wheels make dissembling and transporting the Medline Premium Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchair a breeze.
- The high weight limit means this chair is ideal for a huge range of user needs.
- Detachable and elevatable footrests means you can customize the support you receive, minimizing swelling and discomfort.
- Premium quality components combine to make this wheelchair much more durable than most standard models on the market.
- This chair offers an ease of use to increase the independence of the patient and the work required from a helper.
- The wheels are made of a plastic material rather than rubber. This gives them very little traction, making this chair unsuitable for outdoor use.
- At 50 lbs., this chair is a little on the heavy side and can make long-term self-propulsion difficult and may be a lot of work for smaller carers to manage.
- This chair is a little on the wider side, which can make it a challenge to navigate smaller spaces and tighter corners.
The final manual wheelchair Surf’n’Buy recommends is a perfect blend of lightweight, durability and freedom. The Medline Premium Ultra-Lightweight Wheelchair is great for larger patients without sacrificing freedom. It is light enough to enable self-propulsion, but also for a carer or family member to manage without struggle. This wheelchair’s highly customizable design means you can get exactly what you need from it, offering more or less support as and when you need it. With different sizes available, you can rest assured that this chair will have an option to suit your needs or the needs of your patient.
Manual vs Powered Wheelchair
The question of wheelchairs is whether electronically powered models are actually better than manual models. The truth is, it’s completely up to the user’s budget, needs, lifestyle and preferences. When it comes to making a decision on your own wheelchair, you want to know which is the right one for you so that you feel comfortable and supported. There are a number of pros and cons that come with each option.
Manual wheelchairs are propelled by a physical turning of the wheels, either by the user of the chair or by a helper. These chairs are most commonly used for short-term issues, or for those who don’t spend all day in the wheelchair, but some more premium models are suitable for permanent users.
The great thing about manual wheelchairs is that they are much more affordable. They are also lightweight and easy to transport, but most of the time require less maintenance because they are not as complex. Manual wheelchairs are best for short-term use because they require help, or a higher level of stamina from the user. However, if you are planning to propel yourself, they are also a great way to maintain excellent upper body strength.
The key downside of manual wheelchairs is the amount of effort it can take to propel yourself. Of course, the case may differ if you have a carer, but many wheelchair users do not want to rely on help in order to get around.
Electric wheelchairs are propelled by batteries and driven by the user by a wheel or a joystick. These chairs are the new innovations in wheelchair technology and help users get around with ease. There are three different kinds of drive, rear wheel, mid wheel, and front wheel drives. If you need a wheelchair that can manage corners or circles, a mid wheel or front wheel drive is best. If you’re looking for speed or long haul journeys, a rear wheel drive is what you’re looking for.
These chairs are much more suited to long-term use because they require neither a carer to help you, nor exceptional stamina to push yourself around. They are better suited to navigate narrow areas and therefore provide you with a much greater level of independence.
The main drawback to electric wheelchairs is the price, and this comes from many directions. The price of the chair itself is much more expensive than a manual model. The wheelchair will then require upkeep and servicing. This can be costly, and there are insurance options available, but these can also be expensive. Electric wheelchairs are also much heavier than their manual counterparts. This can make it difficult to transport, as they require specialist vehicles to travel long distances.
Size and Weight of Manual Wheelchairs
First of all, before you can decide on the size and weight of your new wheelchair, you need to know what you’re going to be using it for. Consider how much you plan to use it, and whether you plan to use it in the home, or if you’ll be adventuring into the great outdoors. You should also consider whether you want a single purpose chair, or if it could be a good idea to have more than one wheelchair to serve different purposes. It all depends on the needs of the user, but there is an option for everyone.
Be aware that powered wheelchairs will almost always weigh more than a manual version due their added capabilities. For that reason, we won’t discuss these here, but don’t worry, we’ll give you all the information you need so that you can make the right choice for you. Instead, we’ll look at the different sizes of manual wheelchair and for who and what they’re best suited for. There are four sizes of manual wheelchair:
Standard – 35+ lbs.
Standard wheelchairs are much more durable than lightweight, but weigh over 35 lbs. all by themselves, and that’s before adding any accessories or arm and leg rests. They have a seat dimension of around 16 by 20 inches and can support a person between 250 to 300 lbs. but some heavy duty models will support up to 500 lbs. Standard wheelchairs are the most common on the market, so they’re pretty adaptable for use in and out of the home, and their comfortability makes them great for long-term users. The great thing about standard wheelchairs is that they’re highly customizable to make it even more comfortable for long-term users.
Light – 29-34 lbs.
Light wheelchairs are usually referred to as transfer chairs. This means that they’re not designed for long-term use, but for getting from A to B. Light chairs are easy to fold and carry, making them much more travel-friendly and easy to store. Lightweight chairs will carry an up to 300-pound person. Similarly, to standard models, lightweight models can be easily customized to suit the needs of the user for added comfort and maneuverability.
Ultralight – 0-29 lbs.
Ultralight wheelchairs are even lighter than lightweight chairs and are much easier to propel. These chairs come as both transport chairs and everyday chairs. Their light materials and wheels make them perfect for users who will be propelling themselves rather than being pushed by a carer. Ultralight wheelchairs are great for indoor and outdoor use, giving younger users much more freedom and independence.
Sport – 0-24 lbs.
Sport or active wheelchairs are the lightest of all manual wheelchairs. Their agility and manageability are the best you can get, so they are ideal for users who lead active lifestyles. These chairs can be tailored for a specific sport, making them usable both inside and outside. Due to the nature of their use, these chairs don’t have a particularly high weight limit and usually serve as a second wheelchair alongside one for everyday and long-term use.
How Material Quality Can Impact Your Decision
Wheelchairs are made up of a number of different materials and each serve their own purpose. This can make it confusing when you’re trying to figure out which wheelchairs are best suited for your needs. Annoying, right? Luckily, I’m going to break down everything you need to know about what materials are being used, where they’re being used, and why. There are four main elements to a wheelchair and each can be made of different materials. These different materials are what make each wheelchair suitable for different purposes because they can change the weight, size, and even speed of the wheelchair itself.
The frame is the majority of the chair and it’s literally the bit that holds the user up, with a little help from the upholstery of course. Most of the frame is made up of aluminum with some steel parts to hold it together properly. More heavy-duty models may have more steel than aluminum, and lightweight models may have more aluminum than steel.
Ultralight and sports models, on the other hand, are made up of tough aluminum and titanium. As the name suggest, this makes them much lighter, but it’s also what makes it that bit more expensive because these are specialist materials. Titanium has an especially high price because it is more difficult to machine and weld, but is much more durable and lightweight.
The wheels are largely made up of rubber, with either aluminum or steel to give the wheels their shape and support. Depending on the type and weight of the chair and its envisioned usage, wheels can differ in size. Standard and lightweight wheelchairs generally have larger wheels with more air in the tire. This makes them much sturdier and capable of going both indoors and outdoors.
Ultralight and sports models have thinner tires, but the rubber used will be tougher. This is because these wheelchairs need the maneuverability of a thin wheel, but enough strength so as not to damage the tires during sports or high speeds.
Arm and Leg Rests
Again, arm and leg rests are primarily made of rubber, however some cheaper models may simply have a plastic coating. This is to make the rests comfortable, but easy to clean when needed. More expensive models have fabric over padding for arm and leg rests or gel underneath rubber. This makes them much more comfortable but has the slight drawback of being more difficult to clean.
There are two traditional materials which go into wheelchair upholstery: vinyl or nylon. You might be wondering if this is even a consideration. What’s the difference, right? Actually, there’s quite a bit of difference between the two. Let me explain.
Nylon is the most common fabric used for wheelchair upholstery. It is a synthetic fabric and somewhat porous, offering the patient much more breathability. It also takes much longer to reach maximum body heat reflection, making it a much better insulator. This is great for comfortability of the patient. The only drawback is that, due to its porous nature, nylon is very absorbent, and will almost always retain whatever fluid it has retained. This means you will have to replace the upholstery much more often depending on the needs of the patient. That translates into a slightly more expensive upkeep of the chair for long-term use, but it will be worth it for long-term users.
Vinyl is another synthetic material which was intended to simulate leather. Commonly used in hospitals, nylon is not porous at all and therefore has no breathability. This can increase the patient’s body temperature and be quite uncomfortable. On the bright side, this makes it very easy to clean. Vinyl also comes in a wider range of colors than nylon, so this may be a bonus for younger users.
Person Weight and Height
Not only does the weight and height of the chair matter, but the weight and height of the user matters, as well. Patient safety is the most important consideration when looking for a manual wheelchair. The taller or heavier the person, the larger the chair they will need. Wheelchairs will tell you how much weight they can hold, but sizes will also differ when it comes to height. This is to ensure that the frame can hold the user’s weight and the seat provides enough support for the patient. Below are the general measurements to follow:
Up to 30”
30” – 35”
35” – 40”
40” and above
Up to 200 lbs.
200 lbs. – 250 lbs.
250 lbs. – 300 lbs.
350 lbs. and above
Up to 6 ft.
Up to 6 ft.
Up to 6 ft. 2”
Up to 6 ft. 4”
16” – 18”
17” – 19”
19” – 22”
22” and above.
Comfort When Using Manual Wheelchairs
When sitting in a wheelchair for long periods of time, you want to make it as comfortable as possible. The last thing you want is to have pain from your wheelchair, which is supposed to be a positive feature of your life. Luckily, there are a number of solutions to make your chair more comfortable.
Wheelchairs with many adjustable parts are a great way to increase comfortability. Changing the position of leg rests can make all the different in alleviating pressure and increasing blood flow. This, in turn, will increase overall comfort whilst in your wheelchair.
If you are going to be spending a long period of time in your chair, consider nylon upholstery. This will increase the breathability of the chair and prevent overheating. Avoid bulky clothing, which can also warm you up and make the chair feel smaller to sit in and increase pressure.
Adding cushions for lumbar support is a great way to relieve pressure and stay comfortable for longer. Other cushions provide a massaging function which can increase blood flow and reduce swelling of the legs. These cushions will have more of a pillow feel so that you don’t feel the pressure of your chair as much.
Back and side supports can help maintain your balance for you so that you aren’t doing so much work. They work by securing you in the right position and support you when turning corners. With these supports, getting around and navigating tight spaces and corners is much less work.
You would be amazed at the difference reclining back a few degrees can help make life more comfortable. Not only does it increase blood flow to the legs and feet, it also reduced the pressure to maintain your balance. When stationary, give yourself a little bit of a recline to help your body relax and recharge.
If you really struggle to find comfort in your chair via other methods, customizable seating may be a last resort to solve the problem. Clinicians use pressure mapping to assess your needs and create a seat that will support you in all the right places. This is quite an expensive option, so is best for long-term wheelchair users who have struggled to find comfort with other methods.
There are a few factors which can affect wheelchair maneuverability, primarily the weight, rear wheel position and, most importantly, the caster type. There are two types of forks for casters, standard forks, which have two diagonal positions for the caster to bolt to, and multi-position forks, which offer customizable height for the position of the caster.
In general, shorter forks will have a better turning radius which will therefore result in more efficient wheelchair maneuverability. Multi-position forks also maintains the wheelbase no matter what position the caster is attached in. This means that you can change the maneuverability of your wheelchair as and when you need it. If you need more stability, you can simply elongate the caster’s position on the fork. If you have tight spaced to navigate, simply place the caster in a position higher up on the fork.
Standard forks offer standard maneuverability, so if you’re looking for a wheelchair with multiple purposes, a multi-position fork may be the best option for you.
Manual Wheelchairs Armrests
Armrests are the underrated hero of the wheelchair world. They are seldom thought about but actually offer a lot to the wheelchair in terms of safety and functionality. There are a few things to consider when shopping for your manual wheelchair.
Armrests help to stabilize the chair as the user goes about their day-to-day lives. When bending or reaching, they play an important role in maintaining the balance of the chair and keeping the patient in the seat. On uneven surfaces or during sharp turns or stops, armchair rests offer support and balance for the user without risking balance.
Armrests offer a stable surface for the wheelchair user to push against when moving around and getting comfortable. They help reduce the weight on the pelvis and can redirect pressure to reduce discomfort and risk of sores. By repositioning using the armrests, the patient can alleviate pressure on the spine so as to keep the integrity of the vertebrae and disks intact.
Armrests often play an integral role in repositioning the armchair and maintaining more comfortable positions for the user. Properly fitted armrests help maintain proper posture while the user is in the chair, no matter the position.
Many armrests will swing upwards and out of the way so that you can slide under desks and tables. They may also have height adjustments to better fit the patient and stay out of the way when propelling the wheelchair.
Some Things to Think About
When using a manual wheelchair, you will rely on your armrests more than you might initially realize. Make sure that you purchase a wheelchair that is the right height and position for you body. Customize it with gel replacements or comfortable covers so as to reduce discomfort wherever possible.
What About Hand Rims?
If you are going to be self-propelling your wheelchair, the hand rims are an essential consideration. A rubber hand rim will provide more grip, enabling you to pick up speed and harness all the force you exert to move. However, this can also cause a large amount of friction on the hands. Consider a hand rim cover which will reduce the friction on the hands. There are many different options which will soften the pressure on the hands on a day-to-day basis. Other options can increase the grip without adding pressure or friction on the skin. Alternatively, if you don’t want to lose grip but enhance it, consider a pair of gloves to protect the hands from blistering.
Seating and Positioning
Long periods of sitting can make it difficult to ensure proper posture. Bad posture can lead to muscle aches and even spinal injury if left unchecked, so guaranteeing proper posture is essential. There should be a symmetrical alignment in the pelvis with shoulders slightly behind the pelvis, and the natural curvature of the spine should be well supported.
There are a number of aids which can be purchased to ensure that these needs are met. These include cushions, supports, and back rests. Each offer a different level of support for the user depending on need and severity of posture misalignment. In more serious cases, users might want to consider customizable seating. A clinician will carefully assess the needs of your body and create a chair support system so as to relieve pressure and provide support where it is needed.
Manual Wheelchairs Foot/Leg Rest
The footrest is a hanging accessory connected to the front of your wheelchair on which you can place your feet. Most of these are removeable in modern wheelchairs, and some offer a swing away function to make it easier to get in and out of the seat. Footrests are incredibly important as they assist the user in maintaining proper posture and a comfortable seated position. This promotes better blood flow and pressure reduction which can help to circumvent backpain, digestive issues and pressure sores.
Foot and leg rests are usually made out of a strong metal such as aluminum or titanium to support weight shifts. Durability is important in a good foot or leg rest because they will ensure that such weight shifts do not damage the chair or pose risk to the user by providing balance and stability.
If you’re planning to use your manual wheelchair outdoors or need to transport it in a car, there are a few things to think about before buying. The first is weight. The smaller and lighter a chair is, the easier it will be to move in and out of a car. This is a great option for both individual users and those with carers. The heavier the chair, the more difficult it may be to move by yourself and smaller helpers may struggle.
The second consideration is the folded width. Almost all standard mechanical wheelchairs will fold to make transport easier, but they don’t always fold to the same dimensions. Make sure to check the dimensions of the car with the dimension of the folded chair to ensure it will fit. Just an FYI, this consideration also goes for storage!
The most common braking method on a manual wheelchair is a push and pull lock, operated by a lever at the side of the wheelchair. This puts pressure on the tire to keep it stable and it entirely operated by the wheelchair user. Other methods of braking are foot brakes, which are operated by a helper or family member. These brakes are a simple foot-operated button behind the wheel of the chair. For optimum safety, it is recommended that both of these braking methods are available in your manual wheelchair.
Make sure to look after your brakes with regular checks of their tightness and effectiveness. Consider how difficult it is to actually operate the brake and consider regular maintenance to ensure the safety of the wheelchair user at all times.
Manual Wheelchair Accessories
To really make your manual wheelchair your own, you may want to pick a few accessories to keep you safe and secure. There are dozens of accessories to choose from to increase support and usability so that you can simply get on your way.
Footrests are an ad-on which can often be damaged and need replacing, so an aluminum option is a great accessory to ensure support and durability.
These padded armrests are a great replacement for worn armrests, providing added support and comfort to any wheelchair.
When using your wheelchair on a long-term basis, you may want to add a plush armrest cover to increase comfort and make your wheelchair your own.
Perfect to have on cold days, wheelchair blankets are specifically made to provide cozy insulation but avoid dirty wheels.
Hand Rim Cover
For those who use their wheelchair every day, a hand rim cover is a good idea to reduce discomfort and the occasional blister.
Wheelchair gloves are specially designed to grip hand rims, making it easier to gain speed and agility whilst reducing friction and discomfort on the hands.
Forget having to navigate around tables and desks, lap trays are a handy alternative which make eating, reading, and writing much easier.
Hydration is so important, so keeping a bottle of water or juice in this handy cup holder removes the needs for bags and storage compartments.
Wheelchair Side Bag
If you don’t want to have to keep reaching for the things you need, a wheelchair side bag can keep everything you want within arm’s reach.
When using your wheelchair out and about, small steps can be the enemy. Keeping a threshold ramp handy can avoid the need to find the disabled entrance.
Pain Relief Seat Pad
Back support is of the utmost importance when spending long periods of time in a wheelchair, so make sure to check out pain relief pads to maintain healthy circulation.
Pressure Reducing Chair Cushion
Long periods of sitting can result in pressure spots and discomfort. Avoid this by adding pressure reducing cushions to your wheelchair for premium luxury.
For some helpers, the handles of a chair can be too low to push comfortably. Luckily, a push bar can add some much-needed extra height to make long journeys a breeze.
Especially on outdoor journeys or when hitting high speeds, safety is key, so ensure that you are secured in your wheelchair with a cushioned seatbelt.
When planning outdoor journeys, preparation prevents mishaps, so make sure you have an adjustable umbrella to keep you dry in the colder months.
Aside from the basic wheelchair itself, there are a number of different additional features to browse and think about. This can be the style of the seat and the way it is designed, different manageability features, and warranties. These additional options add to the cost, but make using a wheelchair a much more enjoyable experience for long-term users and carers or family members. Contemplate the needs of the user, but also what might make things easier for carers and family members, also. Some of these options are more designed for the latter to help keep the patient safe and sanitary.
Ergonomics is an incredibly valuable additional option in manual wheelchairs. If you are going to be using the chair on a long-term basis, or if it is your main method of transport, ergonomic design will be invaluable. Ergonomics will help to support the user in their posture and balance whilst helping to alleviate pressure in the torso and legs. This reduces pain and discomfort, which is ideal for those who want their freedom because they will be able to stay in the wheelchair for longer periods of time.
An option which is more suited for carers, an antibacterial seat is a good option for patients with low mobility skills or incontinence issues. These seats are easy to clean and remain sanitary much longer than most traditional wheelchair seat options. If you are looking after an elderly person, an antibacterial seat may be well worth the extra expense to maintain hygiene. This is important for all users, but especially those with specific illnesses.
Warranty & Insurance
Although all manual wheelchairs in this guide are sturdy and durable, we can’t promise that things won’t go wrong occasionally. To protect yourself against faults or damage, obtaining a warranty is an excellent choice so that you can get things fixed as soon as possible. For long-term wheelchair users, it may be a good idea to get insurance on your wheelchair which extends past your warranty. This will give you peace of mind for the future that your needs will always be taken care of.
We have mentioned different size options throughout this article, so we won’t go into them too much here. Just keep in mind that if you need a little more space or a little more support, you may have to think about some additional sizing options for optimum comfort.
Manual Wheelchair Maintenance
I cannot repeat it enough, maintenance is the number one priority! Looking after your manual wheelchair will make sure that it is as safe as possible at all times, whilst also making sure it lasts as long as possible. There are a few things you should do at different intervals, so we will discuss a proper maintenance schedule for your manual wheelchair.
When You Get Your Wheelchair
Store your user manual in a safe place. Trust me, you will need it for future reference. Use a car wax on the chair frame, as this will make future cleaning so much easier, and reduce the risk of rust and chipping. If you’re worried about superficial scratches, you can buy a tube of matching paint so that you can touch up as you go. Set yourself up with an emergency kit. Purchase a tire patching kit and repair pump so that you have them handy if you ever get caught out. Learn how to change your tires so that in an emergency, you won’t get stranded.
Wipe down your chair with a damp cloth and some chemical-free antibacterial spray. This will prevent any chemical breakdown of the materials whilst keeping surfaces sanitary. Check the chair over for any noticeable damage at the end of every day to make sure you don’t miss anything which could become more dangerous if it is allowed to progress. This is an easy step as you are wiping down your chair.
Give your wheelchair a thorough inspection, including the spokes, axle, and rims, and ensure there are no bends or breaks. Check the front casters for any loose wobbling or tightness and clean the wheel axles thoroughly. If there is tightness, give them a little oil. Check your tire pressure and ensure that the brakes are working correctly. If there are any issues with your brakes, make plans to rectify this before using the wheelchair.
Give the chair a thorough clean and apply another coat of car wax. This will keep cleaning quick and easy whilst protecting your wheelchair from the elements. Check for any lost fixtures, nuts, or bolts, and check that your wheel alignment is correct and parallel. Detach and reattach all fixtures to make sure there is no rust or damage, and that they are still functioning correctly.
Lubricate the folding mechanism, all pivot points and ball bearings. This will make sure that all functionality is in top working order.
If any small repairs are required, make sure to consult your owner’s manual and that any replacement parts are the correct ones. If repairs seem a little more complex, call a professional. Remember that although it may cost a little more, your safety is more important.
Safety doesn’t just come from the proper maintenance of your wheelchair, it also comes from proper use. There are a few things you can do to keep safety the priority.
When you first get your wheelchair, you will need to spend some time getting used to it. Find your center of gravity and practice with it. Once you get the knack of basic movement, try corners, then move onto different activities just as bending, reaching, and getting in and out. All movement changes the distribution within the wheelchair and can be off-putting at first. With practice, though, you will build your confidence and it will become second nature to you.
Bending Back and Forth
When bending backward, try to get as close to the object as possible. When reaching, don’t let your body position shift so as to move your center of gravity too far back. This can cause the chair to tip and you may become injured. When leaning forward, don’t reach so far as to position yourself at the edge of your seat. This can be dangerous and falls from this angle can lead to facial injuries. Before bending or reaching, always apply the wheel locks to keep the base of the chair as stable as possible.
Preventing Tipping and Falling
Tipping can be caused by a number of things, from unlocked brakes to slippery and uneven floors. Try to avoid wet conditions and uneven flooring and take extra caution in these conditions. If you’re going outside in your chair, make sure your chair is built for these purposes.
General Safety Tips
- Be careful when leaning and bending
- Be aware of weather conditions and uneven floors
- Avoid sliding out of a proper posture
- Practice, practice, practice
If you are looking for the top-quality chair for long-term use, consider the Karman S-305 Ergonomic Wheelchair. This chair offers everything a wheelchair user could possibly need and more. This is a great investment for long-term wheelchair users, or those who need a little extra comfort. For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, don’t let price dictate your options. The Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair offers premium support for an excellent price without skimping on quality. This chair is great a transport chair or for short-term use to get from A to B. If you have a temporary condition and just need a little extra support, this chair is a great option.
For a happy medium, the Medline Lightweight & User-Friendly Wheelchair offers high quality features for a modest price. This model can be both a long-term and a short-term use chair, making it adaptable to many walks of life. So, there it is. It might be a little hard to navigate finding the right option, but hopefully this guide has provided a bit of a roadmap. We hope you’ve found it helpful and that you will find the right manual wheelchair you need!