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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shopping for A Wheelchair Is a Little Like Shopping for a Car

At Wheelchair Diffusion Blog you can get advice about trends, styles and recommendations. The styles range from sport wheelchairs, for activities like racing or basketball, to the new all terrain wheelchairs, or to everyday use wheelchairs. Styles include choices from customized super lightweight titanium, such as the Trilite, to heavier chairs, that still might only weight 30 pounds or less. Getting the wheelchair in and out of the car can be done by a variety of manual techniques (in which case a lighter one is better), or by using a wheelchair lift.

I recently injured the acl in my left knee, and with my right knee already needing a knee replacement, I had to buy a wheelchair. While I can get around on crutches for a short distance, anything longer than 50 or 100 feet at the most needs to be in a wheelchair or scooter.

With possibly several knee surgeries over perhaps a period of several years coming up I needed mobility. I am a widow and live alone so I needed a wheelchair that I could lift in and out of my car, without being able to stand without crutches. I got a lightweight, 28 pound wheelchair that folds.

I can sit on the back of my Saturn Vue mid-size van with the cargo area open, remove the footrests and the back from the wheelchair, then lean the wheelchair forward onto the back of the car and drag it into the cargo area by rolling it upward on the wheels.

Then I use the crutches to get around to the drivers side, get in, and put the crutches on the passenger seat side. To go for an outing I put the crutches outside the car next to the seat, get out and use them to get to the back of the car, roll the folded wheelchair out and down to the ground, attached the footrests and back, leave the crutches in the car, and take off on my "wheels."

The frame of my wheelchair is a nice forest green color. To reach the wheels easier for pushing I can flip the armrests up and back, out of the way. I've already gone for 6 blocks on the sidewalks around my beachside town, went partway out on a pier, and went to local businesses to take care of my errands.

Fingerless wheelchair gloves to protect the hands from getting burns if they rub against the rubbery tires while you push on the rims might be needed. I rubbed the skin off on the inside of the hands next to the thumb. Because my left leg is in a velcro cast, and is still swollen and sore, the wheelchair dealer showed me how to roll up some foam rubber to make a cushion to give a softer ride for the left knee and to elevate it a little.

At if you search for "wheelchairs,""wheelchair lifting" and "wheelchair lift to vehicle" you can get some ideas that will help from the videos.

Wheelchairs come with variations including some of these choices.

1. Weight can be ultralightweight, light, or standard

2. Frames can be rigid (you might need to pop the rear wheels off to load it into a car) or folding

3. Wheels can be for transport (someone else pushes, small back wheels) or self-propulsion (large back wheels)

4. Frame and seat covers in designer colors

5. Custom wheelchairs, often made in super lightweight titanium, or ready to use wheelchairs

6. Measurements fitted so that all angles and size fits the person

7. Lots of accessories are available these days - even adding hand pedals and other forms of moving the wheels

8. Footrests can be rigid, swing-away, adjustable angle, elevating, seperated or one piece

The lightweight wheelchairs usually weigh 30 pounds or less. If you are managing your wheelchair alone then its weight becomes especially important. Also, a wheelchair designed to turn on a dime and with a light weight will be easier to use.

Getting the wheelchair into the car manually can be done in a variety of ways depending upon the chair. One way is to get a folding wheelchair, remove the footrests and the back to reduce weight, then lift it.

With a rigid, nonfolding chair a person can remove the wheels by popping them off, then lift a lightweight seat and main assembly into the car.

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