The types of wheelchairs available today have greatly expanded since the appearance of early commercially made wheelchairs. Today’s wheelchair users have so many choices that they often need the help of assistive technology specialists, therapists, and wheelchair providers in order to select the right chair and components.
The wheelchairs shown on this page are not meant to be an exhaustive list of every wheelchair made. They are merely examples of specific types of wheelchairs. Have a look at the different types of wheelchairs, click on thumbnails for larger images, get excited, get inspired, or just enjoy the eye candy.
ALL TERRAIN WHEELCHAIRS – MANUAL & POWERED
All terrain wheelchairs have over time evolved from a standard wheelchair with knobby tires to machines that are very much designed to tackle the natural elements. Many specialized features, such as tank tracks, heavy duty motors and batteries, heavy duty or reinforced frames and balloon tires have made the all terrain wheelchair a favorite for wheelchair users who want to return to the great outdoors or whose work has them out in challenging terrain.
Manual wheelchairs are just that, wheelchairs that are propelled by good old fashioned muscle power or in the case of transport wheelchairs, they can be pushed by someone walking behind the chair. There are a number of very different types of manual wheelchairs. They range from ultra-lightweight to heavy duty. Some fold by way of cross-members under the seat. Some have only a backrests that fold, and some don’t fold at all.
Rigid Frame Wheelchairs
Powered wheelchairs are battery powered wheelchairs that can be controlled by the user or by a nearby attendant. These sweethearts do the heavy lifting in the world of disability by mobilizing individuals with severe disabilities and mobility loss, and making them independent again. Quite the challenge I would say.
Advanced powered wheelchairs are flexible enough to be adapted to almost any needs with the addition of specialized components such as a respirator, speech device, environmental control, specialized controls and switches, and an amazingly abundant selection of positioning and body alignment options. They can be had in front wheel drive, rear wheel and center wheel drive. For those wheelchair users who do not need an advanced powered wheelchair system, there are a number of other types that range from compact folders to heavy duty models.
There are however a few drawbacks to these life enhancers:
- They breakdown more often than manual wheelchairs.
- Repairs can get expensive.
- Some of them can’t fit through an average doorway.
- You will sure as heck need an adapted van or good accessible public transportation to cruise around in if you have a large model.
- Your wheelchair funder may not cover the entire cost of the wheelchair and components.
- They are often not as fast as sleeker models and will not go as far on a charge.
However, don’t let the drawbacks discourage you. It beats being trapped at home!
Compact Powered Wheelchairs:
Full Size Powered Wheelchairs:
Power Add-On Wheelchairs
Pediatric wheelchairs are specifically designed for kids. They most often resemble a small version of an adult wheelchair. Pediatric wheelchairs can be fitted with positioning devices and components similar to those found on adult wheelchairs. Most will have adjustments such as backrest height, seat width, and armrest and legrest height that allow for growth.
It is important that children quickly and easily adjust to using a wheelchair and feel comfortable interacting with peers from a wheelchair. A cool looking chair decked out the way the child likes goes a long way in building the child’s self esteem and confidence. Most manufacturers of pediatric wheelchairs now offer a line of fun looking wheelchairs and accessories.
Pediatric Stroller Style Wheelchairs
So you’re just chilling out in your wheelchair. That’s what you think! Any experienced wheeler can tell you that there is much more going on while your chilling than you think. Functions such as respiration, digestion, circulation and cardiac function don’t turn off when you do. They stay on the job, and that’s why being in the right position while in a wheelchair can make a big impact on your health. You don’t want to inhibit physiological functions, you want to support and enhance them. That’s what positioning wheelchairs do best.
Another important reason for changing positions while in a wheelchair is to relieve pressure on bony parts of the body that are pressure loaded and prone to tissue trauma (have it your way: pressure sores, ulcers, breakdowns, wounds, or anything else you may want to call these demons.). Today’s positioning wheelchairs are very much health and wellness promoters. Many have the ability to change the wheelchair user’s position in many ways:
- Tilt- tip the entire seating system back without changing the seat to back angle.
- Recline- recline the back to a laying down position.
- Elevate the legrests from a bent position to a straight out position and anywhere between.
- Many of these wheelchair can combine a numbers of the above actions.
From the early beginnings of wheelchair sports at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and with returning paralyzed WWII veterans who brought their competitive spirit back home to the gyms at Veterans Hospitals, it was immediately clear- Off the shelf wheelchairs would not cut it on the playing fields. Early athletes spent many an hour with saw and torch in hand modifying their basic wheelchairs and turning them into sports wheelchairs.
Today wheelchair manufacturers and one-off wheelchair crafters have heeded the cry of the wheelchair athletes for higher performance sports wheelchairs that are designed with special features for specific sports.
Handcycles are human-powered bikes that are arm powered instead of leg powered. Most handcycles are actually more like tricycles than bicycles, with the powered steerable wheel up front and two coasting wheels in the rear.
Now that we are passed the basic descriptions, we can get down to the good stuff. They are loads of fun! Handcycles are probably the most desired wheelchair type out there. Whether it’s just for cruising around or for exercise, you don’t have to be a stone wheelchair athlete to enjoy handcycling.
Models range from everyday user models to add-ons to high performance handcycles for serious competition.
Manual & Powered Add On Handcycle
Mobility scooters are a type of wheelchair that is configured more like a cart. It is also referred to as a power-operated vehicle/scooter or electric scooter. These devices have evolved from three wheel models to four and even five wheel models which add greater stability to the scooter. Mobility scooters commonly use tiller controls, seats that may swivel for ease of access, and many will come apart so that they can be transported in the trunk of a vehicle. Many have lighting systems and are keyed.
The first readily available mobility scooter was likely a Sears product that was offered up in 1954. It seems American wheelers were not quite ready for it and it bombed terribly. My, how things have changed since then.
Like any other type of wheelchair, mobility scooters have evolved into many diverse types.
Lightweight Portable Mobility Scooters:
Three Wheel Mobility Scooters:
Four Wheel Mobility Scooters:
All Terrain Mobility Scooters:
Don’t just sit there! Well, that’s easy to say but… But nothing! Some of the most exciting and functional of today’s wheelchairs are the standing wheelchairs. When they stand the user stands with them. As is well known, standing is physiologically a very good thing for people to do.
Aside from the physiological benefits there’s more good things packaged in these standing wheelchairs- The ability to face society on an eye to eye level or the ability to reach up to places you could only dream of reaching before.
As things stand, there are a few downers related to these chairs:
- They can get pricey, many funders balk at approving them or they require an unusually extensive amount of justification.
- You can’t just plop down in a standing wheelchair. There are a number of pads and straps that must be positioned correctly in order to facilitate standing.
- Powered models can be large and heavy. There’s a lot of machine there.
- Like any complex technology, things will eventually go wrong. These units can get expensive to repair.
Stay off of the sand! That’s what most wheelchair users would tell themselves when a desire to enjoy the waves washes over them. A loose granular surface such as sand can bog down almost any wheelchair. Thanks to some creative minds and well thought out engineering, beach wheelchairs now make it possible to enjoy a day at the beach with a minimum of hassle.
One thing that most beach wheelchairs have in common- big balloon tires that keep the chair from sinking into t he sand.