Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wheelchairs … what is right for me?

Quest Magazine always seems to have some great articles.  Their October edition had one called, “Front, Middle or Rear … Finding the Power Chair Drive System that’s Right for you.”  For anyone in need of a wheelchair, new or replacement, this article is a good read.

 Permobil C300Corpus_140px I remember when I upgraded from a mid-wheel to a front-wheel drive.  It was totally different.  I tend to like it more in many ways, but it took a little while to get used to just because of my experience with a mid-wheel.

Work with a specialist

Kathy Wechsler wrote that it is best to work with a certified rehabilitation technology supplier (CRTS) as well as an occupational or physical therapist who specializes in wheelchairs.  They will perform an assessment and evaluate your particular needs and capabilities.  She also recommends that you ask a lot of questions and not to quit asking until you feel comfortable with the answers you are getting. 

Consider your needs and ask a lot of questions

Since you want to have a chair that accommodates your lifestyle as best as it can, consider the following:
  • The size and setup of your home, office and your wheelchair accessible vehicle (if you have one). 
  • Also, do you spend a lot of time outdoors? 
  • The width and turning radius of your chair … will itwheelchair - mid-wheel accommodate your doors and turns within your home?
  • The suspension system of your chair … this is especially important it you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors.  Usually front and rear wheel drive units perform the best.
  • How is the weight distributed on the chair?  Rear wheel drive chairs, for example, put a lot of weight on the casters and this often causes problems.
  • What kind of obstacles and inclines will you encounter during normal use?  Front wheel drive units perform the best for curbs, grass, gravel, snow and uneven terrain.  Mid-wheel drive chairs can get hung up easily because they have front and rear casters.  On the other hand, mid-wheel drive units are usually the most stable on inclines and declines for the same reason it is a negative for different terrains.  Normally, rear wheel drive units are the least stable on inclines and declines so it is important to have anti-tippers on the rear.
  • How fast do you need to go?  For speeds up to 5 mph, all chairs perform well.  For higher speeds, the rear wheel drive chairs are more stable.
wheelchair-rear wheel As you can tell, all three models of chairs have their pros and cons.  That is why it is important to get a personal evaluation and assessment as well as to ask a lot of questions.  The author mentions that you should “go with your gut” and not what seems to be fashionable or trendy. 

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