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What to Look For When Buying a Wheelchair

woman in wheelchair

Buying a wheelchair is not an easy task on your own. There are many factors to consider, and the process can be overwhelming for some people who have never had to buy one before. Our experts are here to help and make buying a wheelchair a whole lot easier. We want to share some of the knowledge and considerations that go into selecting the right device so you can make an informed decision. Let’s break it down: first, you need to figure out what type of wheelchair will work best for you. Are you looking for something lightweight or heavy-duty? What about battery-powered or manual? You also need to know your height and weight so that the seat height and depth can be adjusted accordingly. Finally, think about accessibility features like armrests, head supports, foot rests etc…

How do I know what size wheelchair to get?

Wheelchairs are not a one size fits all type of purchase. Wheelchairs come in different seat heights & depths, as do the cushions & backs that fit on them. Even the distance between the floor and the seat is important so that the patients’ feet can reach the floor. A lot goes into measuring a wheelchair, and it’s important to know that long-term use of a chair means the user should be fitted properly so they are most comfortable.

A wheelchair typically has a seat height, which is measured from the floor to the top of the cushion. The most common heights are 17 inches & 18 inches, although they can vary depending on if it’s for someone with short legs or just long legs. 

Another measurement worth taking note of is leg length; this determines how deep your backless wheelchair will need to be when you install your new cushions or backrests. If you have very short legs, then options as low as 12 inches may work well, but if you are tall, then you may need a wheelchair with up to 18 inches of depth.

Seat width is not something that will make or break your experience, but it’s worth noting if the user has wider hips or needs more space for their knees.

Height from floor to top of the seat cushion also determines how high off the ground and how wide open an area there is between the armrests so feet can swing freely underneath when walking around without getting caught on any part of the chair frame.

What’s the difference between a manual wheelchair and a transport wheelchair?

Lightweight and strong, aluminum transport wheelchairs suit a wide range of needs. A typical fold-up chair folds down from its regular size by 75% so it can easily slip inside your vehicle’s trunk compartment without taking up much space at all! This makes them fantastic options for patients who live in tight quarters, have limited mobility, or want an easier way to transport their chairs around town. Users of this chair can’t push themselves, so it is easier for people with limited upper body strength to use this wheelchair if they have an attendant.

Manual wheelchairs are self-propelled or propelled with some assistance. They come in a range of styles and sizes, designed to be lightweight and easy to use. Manual wheelchairs should be fitted to the user, so they’re comfortable and can safely propel themselves.

Manual or transport wheelchair?

If you need a self-propelled chair for home use, choose manual; if your needs are more travel-related (walking distances less than 100 meters), choose a lighter aluminum wheelchair.

What is the lightest wheelchair I can buy?

Both manual and electric wheelchairs can be quite lightweight.

The lightest manual wheelchairs are made with aluminum frames and weigh about 18-20 lbs. The downside to these chairs is that they’re not as durable or easy to maneuver as heavier models.

There are also lightweight electric wheelchairs, which will give you more options for where you can go. Electric wheelchairs range in weights anywhere from 18-600 lb., depending on their function and tasking abilities.

What is the best cushion for a wheelchair?

Cushions and backs come in various shapes (foam, gel or air) and sizes to provide a more comfortable experience.

When you purchase a wheelchair, it is important to find the best cushion for your body type. There are different types of cushions and backs available, so take some time to figure out what will work best with your condition or injury. Some people prefer thicker cushions as they compress more when sat on but do not provide much protection against pressure sores, while others may need something thinner that provides less compression in order to avoid these issues. The chair should keep both feet flat on the floor with ample knee space for proper positioning at all times!

Should I get an electric wheelchair or a manual wheelchair?

Manual wheelchairs are self-propelled and best for patients with limited movement due to injury or the effect of medication.

Electric wheelchairs have motors that propel them forward, so they’re great if you want to conserve energy!

Electric wheelchairs can be pushed by remote control from the wheelchair’s seat (this is known as “robotically-controlled”) or steered like any other manual chair with armrests. They allow you to conserve energy while moving around but can take up more space in your home than a standard manual wheelchair would!

Power wheelchairs usually cost more than manual ones due to the cost of the motor as well as the additional maintenance costs for these features like charging batteries and replacing spare parts when needed.

What is the best pressure relief cushion?

If you need a wheelchair cushion that provides pressure relief, try the gel seat cushion. These cushions are made from a soft, breathable fabric that is infused with therapeutic-grade gel and foam to provide support for sensitive areas on the body while also reducing pressure points.

This wheelchair cushion is perfect for people who have pressure sores as they provide relief to the skin and lower back. The gel seat cushions are also great for those who need a more luxurious feel on their buttocks!      

The ROHO, or an adjustable air-filled cushion is also a great choice for pressure relief. The cellular design allows the individual to be immersed into the cushion for maximum pressure redistribution, which decreases friction and ensures long-term comfort.

What other wheelchair options are available?

When deciding on a wheelchair, also think about the other accessibility features you might need. These include:

  • armrests to help in pushing the chair or head support if your disability causes neck pain
  • foot rests for patients who have limited mobility of their feet and ankles 
  • a wheelchair ramp
  • wheelchair carriers
  • grab bars and rails for the bathroom, showers, or bedroom doorways
  • power handles that provide automatic locks on both sides of the chair so caregivers can more easily push you up a hill
  • large wheels (caster) which make it easier to maneuver in tight spaces like grocery stores and malls.


These features can make a world of difference when it comes to comfort and safety while using a wheelchair!

Selecting the right wheelchair is very important for your overall health and well-being. When you, or your loved one, are comfortable in your wheelchair you can enjoy:

  • Good posture
  • A comfortable, pain-free lifestyle
  • Healthy skin integrity
  • Better quality of life
  • Enhanced respiration and digestion

Purchasing a Custom Wheelchair

It’s great that there are so many options out there if you’re looking into buying a wheelchair! There are manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs (electric), and even specialty chairs such as those with hand controls! No matter what type of chair you end up choosing, though, make sure it fits your body size correctly before purchasing one.  With a properly fitting wheelchair, the user will feel more comfortable while using it and their movement will be easier.

While purchasing a custom wheelchair may seem like a complex or daunting purchase, it doesn’t have to be! Our Mobility Specialists assist with custom wheelchairs that are sized to the user. You may qualify for funding on select mobility aids and we are here to help navigate all options available to you. If you qualify for ADP funding, then an ADP Authorizer would take your measurements and select a chair or mobility device that best suits you. We will work closely with your ADP Authorizer to ensure that any equipment you purchase from us is customized to work for you or your loved one.      

Therefore, it is not always up to the user or family member to know exactly what detailed measurements or features they need. There are experts that help determine this for them! But it is always important to know the factors that go into customizing a wheelchair so you know you are receiving one that is sure to be a safe and proper fit.

Our Seating & Mobility Specialists are here to help you choose the most appropriate wheelchair so you can ultimately feel your best! Contact us today!

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