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Manual Wheelchair Buyer's Guide

Manual Wheelchairs are propelled by the user and require significant upper body strength. There are many kinds of manual wheelchairs available in the market today, including Ultra lightweight chairs, tilting wheelchairs, standing wheelchairs, heavy-duty wheelchairs, children's wheelchairs and specialty chairs. Manual Wheelchairs are quite easy to push, have unlimited range, are simpler to maneuver and transport, and usually cost much less than power wheelchairs.

Manual Wheelchairs should be purchased keeping in mind your physical ability, lifestyle and personal preferences, as well as factors such as the amount and type of terrain you will cover, whether you need to transport the chair in your car, and what your home and workplace are like.

Before you purchase any manual wheelchair, keep in mind to consult an Occupational or Physical Therapist. You can ask for suggestions on the type of manual wheelchair or particular features that can make it easier for you to carry out daily activities – at work or at home.

The basic questions to ask before buying a Manual Wheelchair are:

  • What size wheelchair do you need?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • Where do you intend to use it?
  • Do you intend to transport it?
  • Is foldability a necessity?

Manual Wheelchairs can widely be classified into 4 categories:

  • Ultra Lightweight Wheelchairs
  • Tilt-in-Space Wheelchairs
  • Pediatric Wheelchairs
  • Heavy-Duty Wheelchairs
  • Standing Wheelchairs

Other Manual Wheelchair Resources include:

  • Power Add-on Systems
  • Wheelchair Tandems
  • Wheelchair Seating Systems
  • Wheelchair Accessories
  • Wheelchair Cushions and Backs

Guide to Ultra Lightweight Manual Wheelchairs

Ultra Lightweight Wheelchairs weight as low as 14 pounds and are available in both rigid and folding models, an ultralight weight wheelchair is suitable for the full-time users who want their wheelchairs to perform well and for those who want the lightest chair possible for ease of use and transport. The ultralight wheelchairs frames can be made either from Aluminum or Titanium. Ultra Lightweight Wheelchairs can further be classified into Rigid Frame Ultralight Wheelchairs and Folding Frame Ultralight Wheelchairs.

Rigid Frame Ultralight Manual Wheelchairs

Rigid Ultralight Manual Wheelchairs are made of a rigid square frame and are sturdier in comparison to foldable wheelchairs. Even though the main frame is not foldable, the backrest may fold down for easy transport or storage. Self-propelling and active individuals usually opt for the rigid frame variety because of its strength and durability.

Folding Frame Ultralight Manual Wheelchairs

Folding Ultralight Manual Wheelchairs can be folded when not in use, as well as for storage and transport purposes. It is currently the most popular kind of manual wheelchair in the market. The rear wheels are usually large, while the front wheels are visibly smaller. This design is intended for self-propulsion. The foldable feature is designed for the comfort of the caregiver or attendant.

Guide to Tilt-in-Space Manual Wheelchairs

Tilting wheelchairs tilt dynamically allowing for frequent changes in position which greatly reduce the chances of getting pressure sores. Tilting Wheelchairs are the best choice for people who are not able to sit upright without some mechanical aid. Tilt-in-Space Wheelchairs are generally rigid frame wheelchairs which are heavier than regular wheelchairs which make them a bit difficult to lift or propel. Tilt wheelchairs can have full or desk length arms and they can be height adjustable or fixed height. Both regular footrests and elevating legrests are available with this style of wheelchair. The rear wheels are mostly available in the range of 20” – 26” while the front casters are mostly available in the 6” or 8”.

Guide to Pediatric Manual Wheelchairs

Whether it is at school, at play or anywhere else, a pediatric wheelchair can help a child to move freely. The pediatric wheelchairs of today have unmatched sophistication that provides freedom of movement to children that was once not possible. A good pediatric wheelchair can give the child a number of positions to choose from that include sitting and standing as well as laying down. An important thing to be kept in mind while choosing a Pediatric Wheelchair is that fits all the special needs of the child. A pediatric wheelchair takes account of mobility, independence, physical abilities as well as skills related to the child's functioning and therefore choosing the best model is vital for the child's physical development.

Guide to Heavy-Duty Manual Wheelchairs

Heavy-Duty or bariatric wheelchairs are designed specifically for patients weighing more than 400 lbs. hence the wheelchair model needs to have the capacity to provide maximum support. The width and depth of a bariatric wheelchair should have 1 to 2 inches of open space on both sides of the occupant's body allowing room for winter clothes, movement during patient transfers, pressure relief methods etc. The wheelchair should also have proper back height which promotes shoulder mobility while decreasing potential backaches. Next, you can consider adding features and accessories like custom wheelchair cushion which is chosen separately and can be added to the chair after the purchase to make it extremely comfortable.

Guide to Standing Manual Wheelchairs

Standing Wheelchairs give the occupant the capability to stand on his/her own, lie flat, tilt in space, sit, lift, recline and relax. Stand-up Wheelchairs are specifically designed for people with paraplegia/quadriplegia, advanced multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and polio. Standing at regular intervals has many advantages like promoting urinary drainage, improved circulation, reduction in skin breakdown, prevention of contractures etc. Most important dimensions are the total height, upper leg length, lower leg length and seat width. All the body measurements should be taken by a qualified specialist.

Guide to Power Add-on Systems

Power Add-on Systems assist the movement of an occupied manual wheelchair. The units provide assisted pushing power for a caretaker. Some types of Power Add-on Systems can also be configured to give the occupant control of the wheelchair. Many different power Add-on systems are available to achieve specific tasks. Some Systems like Alber Viamobil provide electronic pushing and braking device for manual wheelchairs with handlebar control to assist attendants. While other systems like Alber E-fix can be used to convert manual wheelchair to powered user propelled wheelchair. Other systems like Alber E-motion can be used as a torque multiplier to reduce the effort required to propel the wheelchair.

Guide to Wheelchair Tandems

Wheelchair Tandems combine the latest in cycle technology with advanced wheelchair design. Wheelchair Bicycle Tandems provide recreational opportunity no other adaptive product. Wheelchair Tandems are colorfully designed to appeal to young occupants and due to the go-anywhere ruggedness, let the child enjoy the great outdoors like never before.

Guide to Manual Wheelchair Seating Systems

Wheelchair Seating Systems are developed to accommodate the occupant’s growth as well as their changing functional seating needs. Custom Wheelchair Seating Systems are generally available for frame widths from 10" to 16" and seat depths from 8" to 20" providing enough room to grow. Wheelchair Seating Systems offer comprehensive, tailored seating solutions for the client who requires reliable custom configured seating and is a must-have for tissue breakdown patients.

If you're still not satisfied with the suggestions you have gathered, you can call our wheelchair experts at (845) 569-1250 or visit us at, or just visit one of our local retail showrooms to inquire about the types, attributes, and prices of various wheelchair models.