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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Choosing a Wheelchair

I would put choosing a wheelchair on a par with choosing a car or a house to buy. Let's assume that, like me, you haven't been assessed for a chair on the NHS but you have gradually come to the conclusion that you could use one, so you're thinking about buying your own.

There are so many different kinds of wheelchair. How do you know which to get? Let's have a look at some of them and the pros and cons of each one.

Transit wheelchair

This was the first type of wheelchair I tried - at Manchester Airport (see previous post). The front and back wheels are small and someone has to push you. It was fine when being pushed through a busy airport but when I was left in the departure lounge for an hour before boarding, I couldn't go anywhere. You've got to picture the scene. Busy lounge... people dashing around... shops and cafes and toilets. I hadn't been sitting there long before I started wanting to move around but I couldn't move the wheelchair and I was worried that if I left the wheelchair and walked, somebody might take or tidy it whilst I was gone. If they had, it wouldn't have mattered. I'm sure they could find another quite quickly but if that had been my own chair, I wouldn't want to risk leaving it. So I would only really consider buying a transit chair if I didn't want to retain any independence.

Lightweight Transit Wheelchair Travel Portable Folding Wheelchair (Amazon £59.99)

Self-propelled wheelchair

I'll come back to this in more detail next time, as I have had two different self-propelled chairs, both completely different. For now, let's just say that this type has two big back wheels with rims attached and small front wheels. It has handles so that someone can still push you but the big benefit is that you can also propel yourself along with your hands on the push rims. This isn't an easy task to master. You need good upper body strength and unless you are already quite fit, it will take time to be able to manage whole journeys by yourself.

For me, the reason I chose this kind of chair was that it gave me independence and the choice to sometimes walk.

Drive Medical XSAWCSP18BLST 18-inch Aluminium Wheelchair Self Propel with Solid Tyres Blue (Amazon £169.47)

Electric wheelchair

I won't say a lot about these as I have never used one. It's like a normal wheelchair but with various levels and types of power. The obvious advantage is that you don't need to exert your own energy to get around, nor be reliant on a carer to push you. Hills and cambered pavements are much easier and getting up ramps is doable by yourself. The disadvantages may begin with the price but also it is much more difficult to fold it and put it in the car by yourself. It's heavier.

Betterlife Aries Electric Wheelchair Adjustable Folding Powerchair Mobility Aid (Amazon £649)

Mobility scooter

Again, these come in many different types, from folding portable ones to big Harley Davidson style trikes. They are easy to use, provided you are reasonably co-ordinated and they move at a decent pace. I used one for a while but for me, the disadvantage was that once I committed to going out on the scooter, I couldn't walk at all because you can't push them. Also, even with a portable one, I couldn't get it in and out of the car by myself, so I couldn't be independent.

Boot scooter - travel mobility scooter. Disassembles into 5 manageable parts - 2 Colours (Amazon £399.99)

So you have to really think about a lot of factors. How independent do you want to be (or can you be)? Is portability important to you? Do you want to walk and ride or just ride? Is price a major factor? How often/where do you think you will use it?

Next time, I'll give you the low-down on my new wheelchair and why it's the right chair for me.

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