How to choose an active wheelchair?

​Since wheelchair users are largely dependent on them, they have to rely on wheelchairs for mobility and independence. It is very important that wheelchairs are adaptable to individual users and their needs.

Many wheelchairs designed for outdoor use are not suitable for indoor use, for a number of reasons:

  • Tires and wheels are designed for rough, not smooth surfaces;

  • The wheelchair is too large to fit through a standard door;

  • Because the seat hight is not adapted, it is not simple to make a transfer from the wheelchair to a sitting surface in your home.

To begin with, let us determine the difference between different types of wheelchairs: there are manual and electric wheelchairs. Manual wheelchairs are mechanical and we divide them into wheelchairs with foldable frames and the ones with rigid frames.

To use a manual wheelchair, you need to have enough strength in your hands and be able to control the upper part of the body to a certain extent. This type of wheelchair is also called active or standard wheelchair.

When it comes to models, there are two basic types of manual wheelchairs:

1. Folding wheelchair

All of them have a similar folding mechanism —a foot pedal and pulling up the seat upholstery. All dimensions, i.e. the width and depth of the seat, and the height of the backrest can be individually adjusted when choosing a wheelchair. Likewise, the seat slope and the possibility of rolling over can be adjusted according to the level of disability and the user’s knowledge. This wheelchair is most suitable as an everyday wheelchair. Folding wheelchairs are not recommended for sports activities as they cannot be sufficiently adapted due to their limited adjustment capacity. In addition, many moving parts which allow folding are not stable enough for some sports activities, such as basketball.

Folding wheelchairs are recommended to persons who:

  • are not very independent;

  • do not have a lot of strength in the upper part of the body,

  • children or the elderly.

  1. Wheelchair with a solid frame

The advantage of this type of wheelchair is the fact that they have fewer moving parts, which means that they are generally stronger and last longer than foldable wheelchairs. A wheelchair with a solid frame, i.e. a non-folding wheelchair, is designed to follow the shape of the user’s body, while the design of folding wheelchairs are focused on the folding feature.


Wheelchairs with a solid frame are recommended to persons who:

  • have enough strength in the upper body;

  • want to be independent;

  • are young and active;

  • see their wheelchair as a part of themselves, that is a part of their body.

Electric wheelchairs are ideal for active users because they give them the opportunity to ride comfortably.

Which adjustment options does a good wheelchair have?

  • The slope of the seat is the altitude difference between the front and the rear part of the seat (rule: the higher the level of injury, the higher the seat angle backwards should be).

  • Backrest adjustment: the back is not flat, it has an anatomical shape. The backrest must be comfortable for the back.

  • Reaching the desired angle between the backrest and the seat is usually possible only in rigid wheelchairs. All in all, it is necessary not to overdo it — the wheelchair should not become a deck chair, but the backrest should not be pushed forward either.

  • Where are the wheels? If the wheels are positioned more forward, the wheelchair is easier to drive and more mobile, but also more prone to turn over backwards. As a solution to this problem, protective wheels are often offered as a protection from rolling-over.

  • Pedal position angle. The knees should not stick out and the feet should be in a neutral position.

  • If there are armrests, their hight should be adjustable. The elbow should lie comfortably and be supported.

And finally, before the final selection, it is important that you ask yourself these questions:

  • Where do I use the wheelchair the most?

  • Will I use my wheelchair only occasionally?

  • Which everyday activities are the most important ones for me to go back to?

  • How will I move around with the wheelchair?

  • How many hours a day will I spend in the wheelchair?

  • How will I transfer from the wheelchair to other areas (bed)?

  • If I need help with my wheelchair, will I have it when I need it?

  • How will I drive the wheelchair around the neighbourhood or the backyard? What types of surfaces can it handle?



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