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How to Choose and Use A Wheelchair

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2023.

What are the different kinds of wheelchairs?

Your healthcare provider, physical therapist, or occupational therapist will help you choose the right wheelchair for your needs.

  • A manual wheelchair uses your arms and upper body to roll the wheels. Some wheelchairs have parts that can be moved, removed, or changed to fit your needs.
  • A battery-powered wheelchair runs on batteries that are charged at night so you can use it during the day. Some wheelchairs can be used on different ground surfaces, such as pavement, dirt, or sand. Some can be used to climb steps, or raise you to reach objects. Certain wheelchairs can be moved with your mouth or chin if you cannot use your hands.

What decisions should I make before I choose a wheelchair?

Consider these questions before you buy a wheelchair:

  • Will the wheelchair be comfortable for your body?
  • Will the wheelchair be easy to move around?
  • Where (on which ground surfaces) will you be using the wheelchair?
  • Will you need a wheelchair that is easy to pack and take in a car?
  • Will you be able to get in and out of the wheelchair easily?
  • Will you be able to use the wheelchair for a long time?
  • What does the wheelchair cost?

What are some wheelchair safety tips I should know?

  • Get in and out of your wheelchair safely. Wheelchairs have locks on the wheels to keep the wheelchair in place. Always lock the wheelchair before you get in or out of it. Move the footrests or armrests out of the way, or remove them completely.
  • Move your wheelchair safely while you are indoors. Floors should be clean, dry, well-lit, and free of objects, such as rugs. All electrical cords should be moved out of the way. Back into elevators. This will help you to reach the controls more easily.
  • Move your wheelchair safely while you are outdoors. Stay to the right side of hallways and sidewalks to give people room to go around you. Slow down when you get to corners. Check for people or objects that can cause an accident. Use caution when you move over ramps or curbs.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.