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How Many Types Of Wheelchairs Are There ?

A wheelchair is a mobility device that comes with a chair mounted on two or more wheels and a locking mechanism. This mobility device is primarily made for transporting the injured, ill, or other individuals with limited mobility. Whether you are in need of a wheelchair due to a disease, old age or accident, you have many different options of wheelchairs to choose from. 

There are different types of wheelchairs available in the market today and for the seek of research, they will be subdivided into four major types. These will include the transport wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs, scooters and power wheelchairs. You can also find other specialized wheelchairs such as the beach wheelchairs, sports wheelchairs, pediatric wheelchairs, commercial wheelchairs and bathroom use wheelchairs.

Manual wheelchairs are built with 2 front castor wheels and 2 large back wheels and such chairs can be self-propelled by its user. Travel or transport wheelchairs cannot be propelled by the passenger, rather it needs someone else such as companions, nurses, or caregivers to push them from behind. Manual chairs are foldable and can be put into the trunk of a normal car. Their leg rests can be removed, and they come fully assembled. 

Scooters and power wheelchairs offer greater freedom and mobility to its user, making it a lot easier to traverse greater distances and to get around. Another feature that separates the manual wheelchair from the power chair is the power assist. With the power assist feature, you have the benefit of transportability and exercise.

Manual wheelchairs are less expensive, easier to transport and more portable than the power chairs. However, a power chair gives you more freedom and independence. Power assist is also a good option for all those who love the manual but want that extra power once in a while.

There are many different factors to consider when deciding on the type of mobility device or wheelchair that you want. These include where you live, cost, where you love visiting, transportability, accessibility, your fitness and so on.

While there are a wide range of wheelchair designs and types, at the end of it all, they are built to transport the infirm, elderly, and those with mobility problems and to provide a better degree of freedom and independence. Below are the most commonly used wheelchairs that exist as of date. 

1. Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs is by far the most popular type of wheelchair, because they provide all those who use them with greater mobility freedom. A wheelchair user in this chair does not have to depend on a caregiver or any other assistant, except for getting in and out of the chair. 

Once in position, even those with serious mobility problems can go from one place to another with ease. These wheelchairs are among the best types of chairs for people suffering from cerebral palsy, and those with similar mobility-restricting issues. They are significantly more costly than the manual wheelchairs and they are worth every extra penny! These can also be found in different types such as the foldable electric wheelchair. 

2. Manual Wheelchairs

These chairs come to most people’s minds whenever the word ‘wheelchair’ is mentioned. Most commonly seen in nursing homes and hospitals, they are the most economical option. 

With this said, of all the different types of wheelchairs for seniors, the manual wheelchairs are available, this is probably the least choice for a wealthy seniors because most older people lack the needed strength to propel themselves from one place to another, causing a caregiver to take them wherever they need to be. A mobility scooter or motorized wheelchair is almost the best choice for the elderly if they can actually afford to get it. 

3. Sports (Racing) Wheelchairs

There are two main types of wheelchairs in this category. Sports wheelchairs are built the same way as every other wheelchair, except that its large rear wheels are both angled-in towards the seat, permitting tighter turns, and allowing the user to take part in a certain sports activities like basketball, tennis, archery, boccia, rugby, dancing, etc. 

Whether you are a novice looking to take part in a wheelchair sport, a professional athlete, or you have advanced sports skills, there are many types of sports wheelchairs at your disposal. Depending on the level of skills the user has and the kind of sport he wishes to play, the right wheelchair can be found.

On the other hand, the racing wheelchairs typically come with two large rear wheels, angled-in towards the seat, and a single small front wheel. Made for speed, they enable the user to take part in different kinds of competitive racing sports.

4. Bariatric Wheelchairs

This is another highly-sophisticated type of wheelchair, mainly constructed with obese patients in mind. 

Built on a stronger frame with a larger seat, these chairs offer a great mobility option to those who have extreme weight issues.

5. Ergonomic Wheelchairs

The ergonomic wheelchair is built in the form of a standard manual wheelchair joined with ergonomic office chair with a high level of lumbar support. They are the best type of wheelchairs for patients who spend most of their time sitting down.

6. Reclining Wheelchairs

This is a wonderful niche design that provides its users with endless recliner benefits. This wheelchair type is accompanied with a pillow to give better comfort when relaxing in a reclined posture. While it is possible to take naps in this type of wheelchair, you will almost certainly need extra padding if you plan on making the best out of it. 

7. Single-Arm Drive Wheelchairs

If there is one disadvantage about the manual wheelchairs, it’s that the passenger needs both hands to propel the chair. If you try using one arm to propel a manual chair, you will end up going in small circles and going nowhere.

Single-arm drive wheelchairs were designed to solve such problem by linking both wheels by a specially shaped axle which let the user to propel himself or herself using just one arm.

8. Standing Wheelchairs

Just as its name implies, the standing wheelchair is made to be used while standing. Most sophisticated models can be reconfigured so they can be used in both standing and seated positions. Though it isn’t the most high-tech design available in the market today, this wheelchair type has the ability of turning its user into a ‘living transformer’, just like what we see in the movies!

9. Ultralight Wheelchairs

Ultra-light wheelchairs are just as their name implies. They are much lighter than their counterparts. To make this possible, they make some concessions, and they are made with lighter-weight materials. 

10. Wheelchair Stretchers

This is an interesting design not typically bought for home use but utilized by hospital professionals and EMTs. They are lightweight chairs that can recline up to 180 degrees, effectively turning into a stretcher whenever the catch gets released. 

11. The iBot

This is another type of wheelchair that is worth mentioning. We did not list it earlier among the major wheelchair types because it is a high-tech product and is rare to come by, but that is about to change. 

The iBot is a highly sophisticated wheelchair that comes with an extra set of wheels. Whenever the user sees fit, the chair can be reconfigured to rise up on both wheels and walk up or down the stairs. The chair is designed to traverse nearly any terrain. Basically, this is a combination of all other types of wheelchairs into one. 

The first iBot was auctioned for sale to the public, but was so costly that the project had to be shut down.  A new model has been released, making the iBot the latest wheelchair technology in history. 

12. Airplane Wheelchairs

This is another one-of-a-kind product mainly used by airlines to enhance the transportation of those who have disability problems, but if you have mobility issues and you happen to be a frequent traveler, you can surely invest in one for your private use.

They tend to be lighter and smaller than traditional manual chairs, being built to pass through the rows of seats and other tight corners of an airplane. They come with safety belts, allowing the user to buckle up during the flight just like every other passenger. It is entirely normal to utilize them on a daily basis when you are not traveling. 

13. Beach Wheelchairs

The beach wheelchairs are almost entirely made from hollow aluminum tubes or PVC, and almost cartoonish large wheels to make movement in the sand more easily. Just because you have certain mobility issues does not mean you should be limited in those things you enjoy or can do!

14. Tilt Wheelchairs

In the wheelchair world, there is a debate about which design is more sophisticated: tilt wheelchairs or reclining wheelchairs? They both are designed to accomplish the same goal, although they accomplish this goal in many different ways. However, the tilt wheelchairs are the best types of chairs for cerebral palsy patients.

Types Of Wheelchairs For The Elderly

Basically, as we all know it, a higher percentage of wheelchair users are older folks as they use this mobility device more than other age groups. Time has a special way of catching up with everyone, after all.

While there is no one reason why an older person could not utilize any type of wheelchair we discussed earlier on,  some are, however, going to be preferable “fits” for the elderly than others. 

Therefore, to know the best wheelchairs for the elderly, we have arrived at the below listed chairs.  

  • All types of manual wheelchairs
  • All types of mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs
  • Ergonomic wheelchairs (recommended)
  • Ultra-light wheelchairs (best for transport)
  • Bariatric wheelchairs (situationally)
  • Reclining wheelchairs (recommended)

Some of these wheelchairs will only be useful if certain requirements are met. For instance, a senior who weighs 98-pound will practically have no need for a bariatric chair. In the same vein, older individuals may not have the required amount of strength to propel a manual chair. In a case like this, the person sitting in it will need the assistance of a caregiver, nurse, or companion.

Types Of Wheelchairs For Paraplegics

This is another interesting group where all the members involved need a working wheelchair to move from one place to another. Though with their interesting profiles, not every wheelchair type is the right choice for those in this group. The list of wheelchair types for paraplegics would include the following:

  • All types of manual wheelchairs (obviously, only when there is an assistant) 
  • All types of mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs
  • Reclining wheelchairs
  • Ergonomic wheelchairs
  • Wheelchair stretchers
  • Ultra-light wheelchairs

While a power wheelchair is obviously the best choice for a person with such mobility issue, the only way to enjoy it to the fullest is when it is paired with an Emotiv headset. This would enable the paraplegic to self-control the movement of the chair either with simple gestures such as eye blinks or simple movements.

Final Words

Over the years, advances in ergonomics and material sciences have resulted to the introduction of many different variants and types of wheelchairs; all modern chairs still have echoes of the first design (mainly the availability of two big wheels at the back and two hand grips to allow a friend or caregiver to push the chair from the back).​ The latest mind-blowing type of wheelchair is the mind-controlled model. This technology is not embodied into the wheelchair itself but is built in a headset worn only by the passenger sitting in it.

There are many different types of wheelchairs and they all differ in technology used, mechanism of control, and propulsion method. Some wheelchairs are built for general daily use, while others for special activities, or to meet specific needs. No single size or model of wheelchair can meet all the needs of a wheelchair user, and the different needs of users led to the creation of different types of wheelchairs. Those who choose wheelchairs for a user need to know the needs of that user and how they plan on using the wheelchair.

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