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Types of Wheelchairs that you can find in the market today

There are a lot of options when it comes to selecting a wheelchair. This is because there are several models out there with their sub-models as well as varieties that you can choose from depending on your taste, need, and preference. These include the following:

  • All-terrain wheelchairs
  • Airplane wheelchairs
  • Ergonomic wheelchairs
  • Beach wheelchairs
  • Bariatric wheelchairs
  • Pediatric wheelchairs
  • Reclining wheelchairs
  • Racing wheelchairs
  • Single-arm drive wheelchairs
  • Standing wheelchairs
  • Ultra-light wheelchairs
  • Tilt wheelchairs
  • Wheelchair stretchers

Getting to know a wheelchair

A wheelchair is just a straight-backed chair that has wheels that are connected to a locking mechanism. This can be used for transporting the injured, the ill, as well as people who suffer from mobility.

Main Usage

Mainly these are medical equipment considered to be Durable Medical devices for Medicare Category B. There are different types as well as designs but all of these are optimized for transporting the elderly, the sick and those with mobility problems.

Each of these types will be discussed in the sections that follow.

All types of wheelchairs

  • All-Terrain Wheelchairs: These are among the unusual types when it comes to wheelchairs. They have large inflated tires that have deep treads that enable them to move over any kind of terrain without any problem. 

Most of these models resemble scooters rather than wheelchairs, but still, they fall in a category of wheelchairs. These are perfect for outdoor mobility.

  • Manual Wheelchairs

These are the traditional wheelchairs that people are familiar with and are what people think of when you mention the phrase. These are common in hospitals as well as nursing homes. Their price tag is very low and most people can afford them.

The fact is that among all types of wheelchairs available in the market this is a sub-optimal selection because older people do not have strength in the upper body that makes it difficult for them to propel themselves, hence they will need someone to help them to push the wheelchair around. This makes a motorized wheelchair or scooter to be one of the best choices in case you can afford it.

Types of Manual Wheelchairs

These can be grouped according to their use and functionality

  • Sports
  • Lightweight
  • Reclining
  • Pediatric
  • Transport
  • Hemi-Height
  • Heavy Duty

Electric Wheelchairs

These are the most popular and many people prefer these because they allow the user to move around with freedom and with no need for someone to push the wheelchair. It makes the user independent thus not having to rely on an assistant or nurse. The only time a person will need help is when he/she wants to get in a chair.

As long as he/she is in a position she/he can move the wheelchair around freely.  Even people with difficult mobility can use these kinds of wheelchairs easily. They are good for patients with cerebral palsy as well as people with mobility restrictions. But it comes with a high price tag as compared to manually chairs.

Airplane Wheelchairs

These are more common to airlines as they are used to move around people who have disabilities. You can have one if you are among the people with disabilities and you keep traveling a lot.

These kinds of wheelchairs are smaller, flexible as well as lighter as compared to the manual ones. They are designed specifically to allow them to pass in-between the rows of the airplane seats. They also have safety buckles giving you the ability to buckle up while in flight just like other passengers.

You can still use them on your daily basis even if you are not traveling.

Beach Wheelchairs

These are made from Hollow aluminum tubes or PVC material with oversized wheels which enable them to move over beach sand. They are good for people who are having mobility issues and yet are looking forward to enjoying their time at the beach.

Bariatric Wheelchairs

This type of wheelchair is specifically designed for obese patients. It is made up of a sturdier frame that has a wide seat that provides a full range of adjustments which is good for people who have extreme weight problems,

Ergonomic Wheelchairs

These are designed to meet the standards by unifying the characteristics of manual wheelchairs and ergonomic office chairs together with the best lumbar support. These are best for those people who sit for quite a long time.

Pediatric Wheelchairs

These are kids-sized which are so identical to the full-sized ones. They are just small in size to fit their intended users.

Reclining Wheelchairs

These are among the wheelchairs with extremely advanced designs that are made in such a way that they offer all the benefits that come with the recliner, as they are rolled into wheelchairs. These wheelchairs come with pillows to offer more comfort to their users when resting in a reclined angle. You can have a sleep when sitting in any of these kinds of wheelchairs though you will need to add extra padding.

These chairs are the best options for patients suffering from spinal cord injuries and need to recline.

Single-Arm Drive Wheelchairs

One of the problems that come with manual wheelchairs is that the user needs to use both arms to propel it. If the user uses a single-arm he/she will end up turning the chair into circles. But the single-arm wheelchair solves this issue by using the axle to connect the two wheels thus allowing the user to move forward using one arm to propel.

Racing/Sports wheelchairs

These can be grouped into two:

A sports wheelchair is designed in the same way just like the standard wheelchair. The only difference is that the large wheels are adjusted to an angle that they tend to bend in towards the seat, making it able to make tighter turns and allowing the user to have full engagement in different sports such as tennis, basketball, etc.

While a racing wheelchair consists of large two wheels, angled inward just the same way as described above, with an addition of a smaller front wheel. This is designed for speed allowing the user to participate in racing.

Standing Wheelchairs

The name connotes the design, as they are designed to be used for standing. A lot of modern-day models allow configuration which makes them be used while standing as well as in a sitting position.

Tilt Wheelchairs

These are the best option when it comes to patients suffering from cerebral palsy and they need a recline. Both the tilt and reclining wheelchairs accomplish the same task but in different ways.

Ultralight Wheelchairs

These are extremely light as compared to other wheelchairs. They are made to make certain movements which include a shortened seatback. These are made using lightweight materials to make them very light.

Wheelchair Stretchers

This design is not for home use as it is often used by EMTs as well as hospital professionals. The design is very light and the wheelchair can recline to up to 180 degrees turning into a stretcher when the catch is set free.

The iBot

This is an additional type of wheelchair that I felt worthy of mentioning. It is a minor type that is why it is not listed among the major ones.

This has advanced technology with an extra set of wheels and in case you want to walk upstairs, the chair can rise and move on its two wheels and let you walk up or downstairs. Its unique design can move on any type of terrain.

In other words, all the other types of wheelchairs mentioned above are rolled into one making the iBot.

The first generation of this wheelchair was introduced for sale to the public, but because of its price tag that was extremely high, the manufacturer decided to discontinue it. Currently, a new version is available on the market which is still among the wheelchairs with the latest technologies.

Types of Elderly Wheelchairs

A portion of our population are elderly people and they use wheelchairs more than any other group.

There is no specific reason why an elderly person could not use any kinds of wheelchairs we just mentioned earlier, but the fact is that some wheelchairs are more convenient for elderly people than other wheelchairs. To understand this, we have to first know the types of wheelchairs which are available for elderly people.

Here is a shortlist of elderly people wheelchairs:

  • Manual wheelchairs
  • Electric wheelchairs/mobility scooters
  • Ergonomic wheelchairs
  • Bariatric wheelchairs
  • Ultra-light wheelchairs
  • Reclining wheelchairs

Some of the above wheelchairs will be good or bad depending on certain conditions. For example, an 89 pound senior has no practical need for using a bariatric wheelchair. On the other hand, older people have no strength that would let them push a manual wheelchair, therefore they will need someone to assist them.

Types of Wheelchairs suitable for Paraplegics

In this group, all members need to have a wheelchair to function. Despite their limitations, not all wheelchairs are good for them. Below is our shortlisted list of the wheelchairs which suit them:

  • Manual wheelchairs- these can be used when an assistant is available
  • Electric wheelchairs as well as modified scooters
  • Reclining wheelchairs
  • Ergonomic wheelchairs
  • Wheelchair stretchers
  • Ultra-light wheelchairs

Normally an electric wheelchair is an obvious choice for people having mobility issues, but when it comes to this group the only way to make it work is to install an Emotiv headset to allow the paraplegic to be able to control the motion of his/her wheelchair with simple movements like eye blinks or with thoughts.

A brief history of wheelchairs

When we try to track the history of wheelchairs we have to go back in 1595 when an unmentioned inventor made a wheeled chair for the King of Spain by then known as King Phillip II. But this design was never copied by anyone and when the King died the design disappeared.

It took another hundred years for the idea to resurface when Stephan Farffler who was a paraplegic watchmaker decided to create a mechanized wheeled chair for his personal use. The chair was installed over a three-wheeled frame, but just like King Phillip II’s chair when Farffler died the design died with him.

Then in the year 1783 what we recognize today as a wheelchair made its debut appearance. This chair was designed by John Dawson, from Bath city, England and that gave the design the name “Bath Wheelchair”.

The original design had a small single wheel in front and over time this design was modified and another wheel was added to the front just like how we see it today.

The typical design that is seen in most of the manual wheelchairs that we see today was invented back in 1933, by an inventor known as Harry Jennings who had a disabled friend.

The first patent to be filed for a motorized wheelchair is recorded to be in 1916, but it took more than 34 years until into the 1950s the device to appear as viable products.

Today’s wheelchairs

Due to technological advancements especially in the field of medicine, material science ad ergonomics, there has been a gradual change that has led to different types and variants of wheelchairs. Besides of all these changes, the wheelchairs still bear the fundamentals of the original design. This includes having two large wheels at the back as well as handgrips that allow someone walking behind the wheelchair to push the chair forward.

We have experienced a cutting edge technology where there is a mind-controlled wheelchair. This technology is independent of the wheelchair as it is contained in the headset gadget worn by the person who is sitting in the wheelchair. The headset works by measuring the brain activity and when the wearer is thinking to move forward the chair, measuring the difference in electrical signals as to when the wearer thinks “forward” “backward” “right” “left” and so on.

The headset identifies the changes in the brainwave patterns, whereas the electric wheel installed with the device can be controlled by that power of thought. This makes it the most advanced among all types of wheelchairs for paraplegics and for other people who have extreme mobility issues.

The following are some of the current wheelchair brands you can look upon

  • Invacare
  • Pride Mobility
  • Drive Medical

Check out our wheelchair rental in Madison, WI

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