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How to Shop for a Wheelchair: A Mini Guide

Understanding how to shop for a wheelchair can be overwhelming. What type of wheelchair is best for you? How will you determine the best fit? And what if you don’t like the wheelchair you choose? But with the right guidance, you can make an informed decision and find a wheelchair that provides you with freedom and independence.

Is a Wheelchair Right for You?

Many people use a wheelchair because they are unable to stand or walk due to a medical or physical condition. But even if you don’t feel you need a wheelchair, using one can help you be more independent and do the things you love, like:

  • Traveling longer distances comfortably
  • Providing portable seating
  • Helping you keep up with the speed of others
  • Giving you complete independence

There are so many people who can benefit from a wheelchair, including those who struggle to walk long-distances unassisted.

Things to Consider Before You Shop for a Wheelchair

The first step of learning how to shop for a wheelchair is to answer a few questions about your personal needs:

  • How often will you use your wheelchair?
  • Where will you use your wheelchair?
  • How will you transport your wheelchair?

Asking yourself these initial questions will help you understand which type of wheelchair will best suit you and will prepare you to speak with a wheelchair specialist.

How Often Will You Use Your Wheelchair?

Wheelchairs can support temporary, occasional, or permanent use. For example, a simple transport chair is best for temporary or occasional use, while an electric wheelchair may be better for long-term or permanent use. Knowing how much use your wheelchair will get will help you find an option with the features and durability you need.

Where Will You Use Your Wheelchair?

Some wheelchairs are designed for outdoor use, while others are better for indoor use on flat surfaces. Even more specialized options can help you navigate sand and rougher terrain. Understanding the surfaces and locations where you’ll typically use your wheelchair will ensure you’ll always be able to get where you want to go.

How Will You Transport Your Wheelchair?

Transportation is a major barrier for many wheelchair users. If you fully rely on your wheelchair, you may need a support person to help you load your wheelchair into your vehicle. If you drive, you may want to look into a customized vehicle that will allow you to stay in your wheelchair. 

And, if you will be loading your wheelchair yourself, you may want to consider folding, featherlight options or a vehicle mobility lift. Understanding how you will transport your mobility device will help you pick the best option for your needs.

How to Shop for a Wheelchair: Understanding Your Options

There are hundreds of wheelchairs on the market with various features, fits, and designs. Shopping for a wheelchair is all about picking and choosing the options that accommodate your wants, needs, and budget.

The Three Main Wheelchair Types

One of the first things you’ll need to decide is which of the three main types of wheelchairs is best for you.

  • Transport Chair: A transport chair relies on someone other than the wheelchair user to push and maneuver it. Transport chairs are commonly found in hospitals and airports, but can also be helpful to those who need temporary or occasional mobility support.
  • Manual Wheelchair: With a manual wheelchair, the user pushes themselves using hand rims attached to the wheels. Many wheelchair users with good upper body control opt for a manual wheelchair as their everyday option. They allow precise control over both speed and direction, and with practice, are easy to maneuver. 
  • Electric Wheelchair: Electric wheelchairs (also called power chairs) rely on a battery to propel them forward. These wheelchairs are best for those who need a long-term or permanent wheelchair but can’t or don’t wish to propel their wheelchair themselves.

    They are helpful for long journeys (where pushing a transport or manual wheelchair would be exhausting), but can be limited by their battery power. They also tend to be larger than their manual counterparts and have a larger turning radius, meaning they aren’t always the best option for tight spaces around the house.

What Size Wheelchair Do I Need?

Getting the right size and fit is key to finding lasting comfort and safety in your wheelchair. Here at Mobility City, we use several measurements to find the right fit for you, including:

  • Seat width
  • Seat depth
  • Seat height
  • Leg rest elevation

Our experts will ensure you receive a comfortable and ergonomic wheelchair that provides ease of use and freedom. Looking for more info on getting the right fit? Check out our blog on wheelchair fitting for everything you need to know!

Additional Wheelchair Features to Consider

One of the most fun parts of getting a new wheelchair is picking out wheelchair accessories to customize your chair.  Accessories may include:

  • Foot and arm rests
  • Carry baskets and bags
  • Cup holders
  • Flags, horns, and other fun additions

These accessories can improve the comfort, fit, and functionality of your wheelchair. You’ll also want to consider any complementary purchases you may need to make, such as:

These devices can maximize your ability to navigate your home and improve your independence outside of your home.

Finding the Right Wheelchair Retailer

Not sure where to start in your search for a wheelchair? You may be tempted to start by shopping online. However, a wheelchair is a big investment, and you deserve one that perfectly fits your body and your needs. You also deserve the expertise of a wheelchair fitting technician to make sure everything is just right. At Mobility City, we carry many brands and options, and we can even bring products to you to try in the comfort of your home.

Find a Mobility City location near you to meet our expert technicians and get started on your search for the perfect wheelchair.