Factors to Consider When Choosing a Folding Wheelchair

Folding wheelchairs offer the perfect solution for travel, transportation and storage

Some wheelchairs can often be heavy and difficult to transport. A folding wheelchair therefore is an excellent choice as they can easily be dismantled, folded and transported by car or other modes of transport.

Folding wheelchairs tend to have a cross bracing mechanism underneath the seat that allows the frame to collapse sideways making them easier to fit in the boot of a car. The chair can also be made lighter by removing the legrests and armrests. On some models quick release wheels are removed and the backrest is folded down to make storage more compact.

Aluminium folding wheelchairs are significantly lighter than those made of steel.

Travel wheelchairs designed specifically for holiday or travel purposes also classed as a folding chair. They often pack down into their own bag or case for transportation and are very lightweight.

Folding Travel Wheelchair

This travel wheelchair folds into a holdall style bag – folds to approx 1/3 the size of a typical folded wheelchair. No other wheelchair folds like this!

Both self propelled and transit wheelchairs are available in foldable designs

Factors to consider when choosing a wheelchair

Chair Weight

The weight of the wheelchair is an important consideration as it will impact on the manoeuvrability and transportation of the chair
In general terms frames constructed from aluminium will be lighter than those made from steel but tend to be more expensive.

An important consideration will be the removable components such as footrests, arms, wheels, and upholstery which can impact on the overall transport and “lift” weight of the wheelchair.

It is recommended to check the supplier’s specification for an accurate indication of chair weight.

Wheelchair User Weight

Many standard wheelchairs have a maximum user weight of 18 stone (135kg) so it important to check the user weight specification before purchasing a wheelchair.

A wider range of heavy duty and bariatric wheelchairs are emerging to cater for larger users. It is prudent to anticipate future weight gains and to purchase a chair with a higher maximum user weight if required.

Storage and Transportation

Folding wheelchairs are the best option if space is at a premium. Travel wheelchairs typically take up less space, whilst attendant propelled wheelchairs are more compact than self-propelled models.

Most folding wheelchairs fold together by pulling up the seat thereby allowing the two sides of the chair to meet in a scissor action. Many chairs also have a half folding seat back and removeable components to help save space.

Wheelchair storage bags are available and are often supplied with travel wheelchairs.

Seat Width

A typical standard wheelchair has an 18” seat width. Many wheelchairs are available in wider seats widths – 20” and 22” widths are commonly available.

For children or those of slighter stature 16” seat widths are available.

Seat Height

A typical wheelchair seat height is 20-22”. Seat heights can be managed using wheelchair cushions of different thicknesses to optimise user comfort.

Foot and Leg Rests

Most wheelchair footrests are length adjustable to provide both leg support and comfort to the user.

Leg rests are typically ‘swing away’ and detachable to help the occupant exit the chair
Elevating removable leg-rests can be purchased for some models of wheelchairs but compatibility must be checked with the supplier before purchasing.

Wheelchair Arm Rests

There are five main styles of wheelchair arm rests available as follows;

Fixed – non-removable
Height adjustable
Removable – to assist in side transfers
Flip-up – to assist with side transfers

Desk – low level armrests or to help position under tables or desks

It is advisable to check the specification to establish the type of armrests that come with the chair

If you would like help or advice on choosing a wheelchair please contact Home and Medical on Freephone 0800 035 3588


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