Wheelchairs are generally classified by Medicare (which sets the industry standards) as lightweight (less than 34 lbs.) and ultralight (less than 3
0 lbs.). (These weights do not include footrests or armrests.)Lightweight chairs are often not adjustable and are not recommended for SCI. Ultralight chairs are more expensive than the lightweight chairs, are highly adjustable, and incorporate many design features that improve mobility and comfort
Frames may be folding or rigid. Rigid frames tend to perform better when maneuvering. Folding frames are often easier to transport, although many rigid chairs can get to a very small size by removing the wheels and folding down the backrest.
Manual Wheelchair Components
Footrests support your feet and lower legs. They can be fixed, folding or swing-away and come in many different styles.
Armrests are places to rest your arms when you’re not moving. They can be wraparound, full-length or desk-length; fixed or height-adjustable; removable or flip-back. Fit is important because armrest position can alter the way you propel your wheelchair.
Backrest Sling backrests are the most common, but provide little postural support. Adjustable tension backrests can provide more support and can be adjusted over time. Rigid backrests provide the best support, but may make it more difficult to collapse the chair. The weight and height of the backrest are important. In general, the lighter the better, with carbon fiber backrests being a nice option. If support is not needed, a lower backrest is better as it does not get in the way of pushing.
Wheelchair Hard Cushions
Foam Wheelchair Cushions - Foam is light and varies widely in stiffness and density. Proper stiffness, density and resilience help ensure adequate support and an effective lifespan.
Gel Wheelchair Cushions -Gel wheelchair cushions are heavier than foams and, therefore, are often used in combination with foams. These materials are good at minimizing heat and are typically encased by a protective cover so are easily cleaned. Because of their incompressible nature, viscous fluid and gel wheelchair cushions often use a contoured non-deforming foam base or a flat, compressible foam base to better enable the cushion to conform around the body.
Air Wheelchair Cushions - Air is highly compressible and would make an excellent support surface, except for its requirement of an impermeable membrane.Because air wheelchair cushions are adjustable, they can be inflated to meet the needs of the user, but this adjustability also means that they must be maintained properly. An improperly inflated air cushion can be either too hard or too soft, and both are potentially damaging situations.