A wheelchair is a device that can aid the movement of individuals who have walking and sitting difficulties. The device is usually propelled either manually or electronically. The history of the wheelchair dates back many centuries, the 17th century in England. Over time, the device has been improved and the present one is nothing like the original one.
A typical wheelchair consists of a seat and back, four wheels (two small front wheels and two huge wheels on each side of the wheelchair) and a footrest. For the most part, all wheelchairs are alike; however, with the present technologies, some wheelchairs are subject to extensive modifications and customizations that ensure the vehicles meet the several needs of their users.
Some parts that are often customized include the footrests, seat sizes, the length of the distance between the seat and the floor, caster outriggers, controls, backrests etc. These modifications are not only designed to fit the aesthetic tastes or preferences of the users, but also to accommodate the special needs of most disabled people.
Also, there is an abundance of optional accessories for the wheelchair in the market. For example, safety belts, anti-tip wheels or bars, mounts or devices for carrying crutches, oxygen tanks or walkers, drink holders, support for limbs, recline features, as well as clothing protectors. The sheer variety of accessories available demonstrates that there are endless ways one can customize and tailor their wheelchair to meet their very specific needs.
With the continuous progress in technology, it is hoped that the wheelchair can be made more nifty and responsive to even the finest of needs. For example, several experiments are ongoing and in the near future the wheelchair might ride on wheels such as the mecanum wheel and omni wheel which permit a wide selection of movement options.
Manual wheelchairs are the type of wheelchairs that require human effort to propel. Presently, there are about three kinds of manual wheelchairs, and they include the wheelbase, attendant-propelled, and self-propelled. One great advantage with most manual wheelchairs is that they can be folded for storage or for portability.
Self-propelled wheelchairs are driven by the occupant who often pushes the huge wheels at the rear to move the vehicle forward. The chair is propelled by pushing the hand rims constructed of hollow tubes fixed on the large wheel – the hand rims are usually smaller in sizer compared to the wheel. Whenever the occupant wants to descend curbs, they can pull wheelies which are located on the back of the large wheels.
Attendant-propelled wheelchairs are constructed so as to be propelled by a friend, family member, or caregiver who’ll often push the chair using the handles. That means the chair’s back wheels are smaller and rimless. These type of chairs are useful especially in the transfer of patients at the hospital or airport.
Wheelbase chairs are designed for disabled people with unusual or complicated postures. The chair is fitted with a specially molded seating system that requires taking a cast of the person’s best achievable sitting position and then forming a plastic mesh surrounding it or encasing the shape with memory foam. The seat is covered, framed, and fixed to the wheelbase. This now becomes more of a custom wheelchair than the typical one most are accustomed to.
It happens that the lighter the wheelchair, the more costly it is. The low-cost chairs are usually heavy and tubular, with sling seats, and very minimal adaptability. At the other extreme end there are ultralight wheelchairs with a vast number of seating options, several accessories, and all-terrain features.
Electric Powered wheelchairs are divided into rear, center, and front-wheel driven. Each of these styles has its own unique handling characteristics. But there are further distinctions, especially with regards to the seat type, and there are sling-style seat and frame, and others have captain’s chair seating similar to the one found in automobiles.
Electric wheelchairs are usually provided for people who are so severely disabled that they cannot move their wheelchairs. People whose important organs, such as the arms and upper torso are working perfectly, are usually advised to use a wheelchair. Alternatively, they can find an electric wheelchair for themselves, but insurance won’t cover.
There are other variants, i.e. a standing wheelchair, mobility scooter, as well as a bariatric wheelchair. A standing wheelchair supports the user in his or her standing position. These chairs are fitted with hydraulic pumps or electric powered assists to help users stand and sit in the wheelchair. A mobility scooter is in every aspect similar to the electric-powered wheelchair save for the fact it is fitted with a bar instead of a joystick. A bariatric wheelchair is meant to support large weights. The standard wheelchair is designed to hold a person with the average weight or less.
Disabled athletes require sport wheelchairs to aid them to take part in the sports (for disabled people) that require speed and agility. The chairs are non-folding and feature a pronounced angle for the wheels. The angle helps its turning.
These kinds of wheelchairs provide better mobility in the beach sand and when the user enters into the waters.