Wheelchairs 101: 7 Terms You Seriously Need to Know

When you’re shopping for wheelchairs online, you might encounter some confusing vocabulary. To help you make the right decision here’s what those terms mean and why they matter.

Armrest Height

The armrests should be set to support your arms comfortably. If they’re too high they’ll push your shoulders up; too low, and they’ll cause you to slump. Don’t forget to take the height of the seat cushion into account when you measure armrest height.

Backrest Height

Most backrests are set at a standard height, although it can differ on specialist chairs. If you need a higher backrest, it can be extended with optional accessories.

Dual Axle (Hemi)

A wheelchair set at hemi height is about two inches lower than standard height. This makes it easier for users to propel the chair with their feet. A dual-axle wheelchair is adjustable, from standard height to hemi height.

Leg Rests

There are two kinds of leg rests: swingaway and elevating. Elevating leg rests raise your legs with calf pads, which prevents swelling. Swingaway leg rests rotate to the side of the chair, letting you in and out easily. Both styles are removable.

Seat Size

Seat width makes a big difference in the comfort of your wheelchair. You don’t want a seat that’s too wide for you to reach the armrests comfortably or a seat that’s so narrow you feel squeezed in. Seat depth is also an important factor. Seats that are too short won’t support your thighs properly, putting too much pressure on your bottom. Seats that are too long will irritate the inside of your knees. The most common wheelchair seat widths are 16 inches and 18 inches (the most popular choice). Seat depths are only adjustable on specialty chairs, so you’ll want to make your choice carefully.

Seat to Floor Height

Here, too, you’re looking for a middle ground between too short and too high. If the distance between the seat and the floor is too high, your feet will dangle. If it’s too short, they will drag on the ground. Seat-to-floor height is especially important if you plan on propelling yourself with your feet.

User Weight

Standard wheelchairs can usually safely handle a maximum load of about 300 pounds. Going over this limit is both dangerous and will invalidate your warranty. Heavy-duty wheelchairs are available for those who weigh more than 300 pounds. Now you know the main terms which will help you to understand the shopping process better. Next, you probably will want to choose the best wheelchair for easy transportation.

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