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Choosing a suitable wheelchair

Wheelchairs are mobility aids for individuals who are unable to walk due to illness, injury and amputation. Wheelchairs enable the user to move freely and actively participate in activities of daily living (ADL), school, work and leisure. This can improve self-confident of the user when it helps the user to enjoy life as others.


Wheelchair and accessories

Some issues need to be considered before buying a wheelchair. The user must identify whether it is a permanent use or short term use. For the short term use, standard wheelchair is adequate. Meanwhile for the permanent use, customized wheelchair is suggested.

The user must classify the aims of the wheelchair whether it will be used indoor or outdoor such as at school and workplace. For indoor use, steel wheelchair is sufficient. Meanwhile for outdoor use, the aluminum wheelchair is recommended. This is because aluminum wheelchair is lightweight, simple and energy conservation compared to the steel wheelchair.

For the outdoor wheelchair, the user must think about whether it will be easy to get in and out of a car boot. If the user wishes to bring the wheelchair along into the car, detachable wheelchair is highly recommended. Detachable wheelchair enables the user to take out some of the accessories before transfer it into the car boot.

The user also must think about whether it will be managed by the person using it or with someone always there to help. Occasionally for kids, person with severe spinal cord injury and senior citizen might need assistance to maneuver the wheelchair. Usually the wheelchair that requires assistance to maneuver has smaller wheels. Wheelchair with large rear wheels is easier to maneuver by the user.

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Detachable wheelchair

There are 3 types of wheelchair in the market. First is the wheelchair that maneuvers by user independently. For this type of wheelchair, the user must have enough muscle strength to handle and maneuver the wheelchair. The user that has potential to recover are also recommend to use this type of wheelchair. Wheelchair that made from steel is heavier that aluminum. For the frequent use, the user is advice to use the aluminum wheelchair because it is lightweight, simple and energy conservation. However the price of aluminum wheelchair is higher that the steel wheelchair.

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Aluminum wheelchair and Steel wheelchair

The second type is the wheelchair that requires help from others to maneuver. This type of wheelchair usually used for kids, bedridden patient and senior citizen that unable to handle the wheelchair by themselves. Reclining wheelchair is also available according to user’s need.

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Wheelchair that require assistance to maneuver

The third type is the motorized wheelchair. This type of wheelchair is suitable for indoor and outdoor use. The motorized wheelchair is expensive compare to other types of wheelchair. It usually comes with the charger and remote control of the wheelchair. This type of wheelchair is highly recommended for the user who needs to move faster independently at work, school, shopping complex and other places.  

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Motorized wheelchair

All types of wheelchair can be found in standard measurement (14 inches, 16 inches, 18 inches and 20 inches) and custom-made. If the seat width is too narrow, it can cause discomfort and pressure at both thigh muscles. If the seat width is too wide, it can create a pelvic obliquity and scoliosis, improper sitting posture, and impair access to wheels and armrests. Standard wheelchair is cheaper that custom-made wheelchair. User can choose according to their financial status and the objective of the wheelchair usage.

Wheelchair comes with the accessories such as cushion, armrest, footrest, and safety belt. These accessories are essential for user’s safety and comfort during using the wheelchair.

Cushion plays an important role in ensuring the user is comfortable and healthy. Permanent wheelchair user is highly recommended to use proper cushion to relief the pressure and prevent from skin breakdown and decubitis ulcer. Pressure relief exercise should be practice by the user frequently to encourage good blood circulation.

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Armrest is necessary to ensure the user’s hand can be place in correct position. Armrest height needs to meet height of the flexed elbow when seated. If the armrest is too high, it can cause pressure on shoulder joint, pain and difficulty to maneuver the wheelchair. If the armrest to low, it can cause pressure on pelvic bones, encourage shoulder subluxation and create kyphosis or scoliosis.

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Footrest helps user to place their foot in correct position. Diabetic’s patient always experienced of loss of sensation on lower limbs. Footrest can prevent user from foot drop and foot injury. Footrest must be placed in a proper position to provide comfort ability to the user. If the footrest is too long, it can cause extra pressure to the thigh muscles and encourage edema. If the footrest is too short, it can cause pressure to the sitting bones and discomfort to the user.

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Safety belt is useful to prevent fall from the wheelchair. Children and senior citizen with lack of trunk control are advice to use safety belt. Size of the safety belt must be suitable with the size of the user.

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Safety belt

For comprehensive information and proper consultation, the user or carers can visit and refer to Registered Occupational Therapists at any government health clinics or hospitals.


  1. Tips for choosing a wheelchair (2012). Retrieved on 25 April 2014 from http://www.nhs.uk/CarersDirect/guide/practicalsupport/Pages/Tips-for-choosing-a-wheelchair.aspx
  2. Proper fit of a wheelchair (2009). Retrieved on 20 April 2014 from http://atwiki.assistivetech.net/index.php/Proper_fit_of_a_wheelchair
  3. Wheelchair (2014). Retrieved on 15 April 2014 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/wheelchair
Semakan Akhir : 28 Ogos 2020
Penulis : Noor Emellia bt. Jamludin
Akreditor : Premalatha a/p Sundram
Penyemak : Tan Foo Lan