When you or your doctor make the decision that it's not safe for you to walk or stand on your own, assistive devices like wheelchairs can help you continue to move around. Not all wheelchairs are the same, however, and you will need to choose whether a manual wheelchair or a transport chair is right for you.
What Is a Manual Wheelchair?
You will undoubtedly be familiar with the style of the standard manual wheelchair, as the general design hasn't changed much in the last century. These chairs have large back wheels that the user can propel in order to move forward and backward as well as turning when necessary. Once you master the use of a manual wheelchair, you will be able to transport yourself independently--though an attendant may also use the handlebars on the back of the chair to push you when necessary.
What Is a Transport Chair?
Since guiding your own manual wheelchair requires a good deal of upper body strength, however, many individuals prefer using a transport chair instead. Transport chairs don't have the large drive wheels and can't be propelled by the user, so a caretaker must push your chair whenever you want to move around.
Manual Wheelchair vs. Transport Chair
Manual wheelchairs are typically heavier than transport chairs, and they can be a little more difficult to fold up for transportation in your car. Transport chairs, on the other hand, are built for easy travel. They tend to be made of lightweight materials and are extremely portable so that you can easily use them on the go. Since manual wheelchairs are made with more heavy-duty construction, they are usually more durable than transport chairs, so they can be used for longer periods of time and go over rougher terrain.
Benefits of Motorized Wheelchairs
If you can't propel yourself in a wheelchair but still want to maintain your independence, then a motorized wheelchair might be the perfect choice for you. These devices can be driven by the user, and they are steered with a joystick that's located on one of the armrests.
The seats on most motorized wheelchairs can also be adjusted to help the user find the most comfortable position possible. Power wheelchairs are an excellent choice for use around the house, as their small wheels give them a very tight turning radius.
While many models are less portable than manual wheelchairs or transport chairs, others can be easily folded for storage in the car. Most motorized wheelchairs can only be self-propelled, though some models are able to be used without the motor and can be pushed manually by an attendant when assistance is needed.
If you’re unsure as to which type of wheelchair is right for you, talk to your physical therapist or health care provider.
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