Your Wheelchair and Mobility Scooter Resource
Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 at 9:10 am
Choosing the best type of wheelchair is something that often comes down to personal preference, although there are certainly a number of other factors involved in this decision, such as physical capabilities and cost. For many, despite the allure of an electric wheelchair, even those heavy duty models that can be driven almost anywhere, a manual wheelchair is still the first choice.
Manual wheelchairs have been used for thousands of years, but the modern design used today is based off of a 1930′s wheelchair called the E&J Wheelchair, developed by Everest and Jennings, two inventors. While there have been many improvements to the manual wheelchair since then, including improved metal working techniques and axle technology, the basic design is quite similar to these early models, which features a hollow metal frame to reduce weight, as well as allowing the wheelchair to be folded when not in use.
A lot of physical effort is required to use a manual wheelchair, which is propelled by the user who pushes on the large rear wheels. A set of hand-rims extends from the wheel, which allows the wheels to be spun easily, without having to touch the part of the wheel that makes contact with the ground. Of course, while many people choose to self propel their manual wheelchair, most also have push handles on the back, so the wheelchair can be pushed from behind.
The front rigging of the wheelchair is the part where the user rests their feet and typically provides two foot rests, although some provide only a single long foot rest, which can be folded up or removed quite easily. A set of parking brakes is also usually attached to the larger rear wheels, which work by simply applying pressure to the wheel and lock in place, holding the wheelchair still.
One of the main improvements to the original E&J Wheelchair has been to the rear axle. The axle connects the two rear wheels, allowing them to spin in unison and makes it possible to move the wheelchair easily in a straight direction, as well as making turning easier. Not only has the axle itself been improved mechanically, but many wheelchairs now offer a movable axle, which allows the user to change the weight distribution of the wheelchair, as well as reducing or increasing resistance.
Of course, cost often also plays a factor, as manual wheelchairs are much less expensive than electric wheelchairs.
There are many types of manual wheelchairs and one type that has become quite popular in the last 10 or 20 years is the sports wheelchair. Sports wheelchairs come in a variety of designs and styles, including many specialized wheelchairs designed for specific wheelchair sports.
For example, sport wheelchairs designed for wheelchair racing have a very long wheelbase, with the front wheels extending several feet from the rest of the wheelchair, helping to improve stability. Wheelchairs designed for wheelchair basketball, on the other hand, typically have a special metal guard around the chair to protect the user.
Of course, sports wheelchairs do not always have such a glaringly different design and many are simply designed to be as light as possible, while including mechanical upgrades to improve performance. Often, they will feature a more comfortable seat that is made out of a very breathable material, as opposed to the vinyl often used in manual wheelchairs, as well as a lower back or even no back at all. Many find that sports wheelchairs are more practical, even though they don’t play a particular sport.
For instance, for those that work indoors, the lower backrest found on most sports wheelchairs makes it much easier to turn and work around a desk without being inhibited. So, it is common for people to prefer a sports wheelchair over a standard design.