Complete Wheelchair Buyer's Guide
There is so much more to using a wheelchair than simply picking one and getting seated. Our specialist team will help you consider your needs, weight, seat width and what kind of propulsion is best for you.
As wheelchair specialists in the South West, we not only hire out and sell chairs but also supply a full range of accessories, cushions and spare parts. We are a registered NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) provider and are a Country Care Group- and Allianz-contracted supplier for the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA).
Now, let’s consider how you choose from many options. Our first question is: are you in a permanent wheelchair - in other words, will you sit in your chair from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night? In most cases, this determines whether you require an off-the-shelf model or a scripted chair, customised to your exact measurements and requirements.
Custom or scripted wheelchairs
If you have been classed as a permanent wheelchair user, then your chair should always be scripted to ensure the perfect fit for you. Spending most of the day in a chair that is the wrong height, difficult to manoeuvre and generally uncomfortable will have a significant impact on your overall quality of life.
If you need a scripted chair, you will almost certainly be already working with your own occupational therapist and should involve them in this important process.
So, how do you choose a custom chair? Several factors come into play – including the carer! It is important to establish how much the user will self-propel and how much the carer will move the chair. Do you want a power wheelchair (see below) or a manual wheelchair with power add-ons?
If you plan on self-propelling then the lighter the chair, the better. We suggest the Motion Composite range of wheelchairs that include a carbon fibre model. Carbon fibre is very strong, lightweight, stress resistant and corrosion resistant – all important factors for long-term, everyday use. Motion Composite chairs can be fully customised, right down to the colour, which can be particularly important for paediatric or children’s wheelchairs.
Users or patients who want to be completely independent and cover ‘rougher’ terrains like steeper streets, angled driveways or even go off-road, might want to consider a Klaxon power add-on. Although pricier, they’re a great option for users who want to cover longer distances, enjoy the outdoors and seek a high level of self-reliability.
We work closely with Glide Rehab, who manufacture a range of wheelchairs in Perth. We also work with Linds Rehab, who import specialised manual and power wheelchairs. Both companies offer power add-ons, including propulsion via the wheels or joystick (which can be positioned for the carer to steer the chair). These wheelchairs are fully customisable and price competitive.
The first decision to make is to consider how long you are going to be sitting in the power chair. Are there any concerns with regards to pressure? A basic power wheelchair with a captain seat, such as one from the Shoprider range, is a comfortable and cost-effective solution for mainly indoor use.
If you are planning on using a power wheelchair outside as much as inside, then you may consider something like the Glide Centro for its ability to easily navigate kerbs, or the Linds Magic Mobility Extreme with its unrivalled off-road performance, which can handle the rougher terrains and even the sand on the beach!
Standard and lightweight wheelchairs
A standard, off-the-shelf wheelchair (below right) from a reputable dealer should be fine for occasional use. Ensure that your weight and seat width are taken into account, and that you have the option to adjust the height of the footplates for extra comfort.
Weight is very important when choosing a wheelchair. If a user needs more support, then carbon fibre models – like those from Motion Composite - can be a very strong but still lightweight option.
Paediatric wheelchairs must cope with the child’s needs for home, school and play. Seat heights, depths and widths must all be taken into account and allow for some growth without being too big. Allowing your child a say in some aspects of the design – like the colour – goes a long way in helping them adapt to a chair and seeing it as a vital tool to explore the world.
Seating assessment clinics
Cape Abilities holds regular Seating Assessment Clinics where all your personal factors are considered and a suitable wheelchair option can be proposed and trialled, all under our expert guidance. For these regular seating and wheelchair scripting events in Busselton and Bunbury, we partner with Glide Rehabilitation Products and Linds Rehabilitation Equipment.
Where needed, a fully scripted chair can be created. We are the only mobility company in the South West that offers this service. We work with several wheelchair specialists in order to bring our clients a wide range of scripted wheelchairs, power wheelchairs and power add-ons. We’ve even been known to take power wheelchairs down to the beach to see how they perform!
The most important advice is: try before you buy and, remember, you get what you pay for.
Our showrooms in Busselton and Bunbury allow for testing various models, and our staff will ensure the best option for your needs. Plus, we provide after-sales care with hands-on backup and support.