How to Choose a Lightweight Wheelchair

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Written By The Bimblers

Rob and Bridget - The Bimblers are two of the UK's most influential chronic illness and accessible travel bloggers. They live by the mantra Life is an adventure; let's make it accessible.

It’s a big decision to start using a lightweight wheelchair, and it somehow feels like you’re giving up, and for some people, there’s the embarrassment of being seen in a wheelchair.

Honestly, I get it. Bridget had a wheelchair in the shed for years before she’d get in it.

Eventually, she realised that using her wheelchair wasn’t giving up. Instead, it was liberating.

Using her wheelchair meant she could visit new places, and most importantly, it would preserve what little mobility she had left.

As for being embarrassed about using her wheelchair, she soon got over it. Who cares what other people think of you using a wheelchair? That’s their problem, not yours.

Types of Wheelchair

Most of us have a favourite chair at home. It’s comfy, you can see the telly properly, and it’s your chair.

The same goes for a wheelchair. Apart from the obvious, wheelchairs are not all the same.

If you sit in the wrong wheelchair for any time, you’ll end up in a worse condition than when you got in it.

Transit Wheelchairs

If you look at Bridget’s first wheelchair pictures, it was a standard-issue NHS transit wheelchair.

NHS Transit Wheelchair

Initially, it served us well. But, the more Bridget used it, the more we realised it was unsuitable for our lifestyle.

Self Propelled Wheelchairs

Bridget’s second wheelchair was an NHS self-propelled wheelchair.

NHS Self Propelled Wheelchair

But Bridget can’t self-propel because she has dislocated joints on both hands, a fused wrist and no upper body strength, so what’s the point?

The short answer was large rear wheels! In theory, bigger wheels cushion more of the bumps.

The main problem with that wheelchair was its weight. It was heavy to lift in and out of the car, hard to push, and a nightmare to manoeuvre.

Lightweight Wheelchairs

Bridget’s third wheelchair, the one we use now, is lightweight.

Karma Ergo 115

It was pretty expensive to buy, but it’s the best investment we ever made.

So, here are my top tips to help you choose a new lightweight wheelchair. I hope you find them helpful.

Please use this information with care. If you want to buy a wheelchair, please research, as we cannot be held responsible for details on third-party websites.

Lightweight Wheelchair – Buyers Guide

Things to Consider

  • Supplier – always buy from a reputable seller. If it breaks, will they fix it, replace it or have spare parts?
  • Insurance – is the chair worth insuring, and can you buy insurance? A chair that costs a couple of hundred pounds to replace may not be worth insuring, but insurance is worth considering if it costs more.
  • Warranty – does the chair come with a manufacturer’s warranty, and can you renew it after the initial period?
  • Use – have a clear idea of what you will use the chair for? Will it be occasional use, regular use, or varied terrain, and can it keep up with your lifestyle?
  • Fit – make sure it fits. Chairs come in many sizes. Try them all and find the right one for you and your body shape.
  • Comfort – your chair needs to be comfortable. Is the backrest high enough? Are the cushions well-padded? Will the seating material stop you from sweating? Can the armrest be moved, and are the footplates adjustable? In other words, will the chair adapt to suit you?
  • Weight – this is my biggy; how heavy is the chair? Is it easy to push and lift in and out of the car and easy to fold for storage?
  • Price – in my humble opinion, the price usually indicates quality. That’s not to say cheap chairs are no good, but the adage applies, you get what you pay for. Chairs, especially the right chair for you, might not be cheap, have a look around to see if you can get a voucher from the NHS, support from a charity or whether you are VAT exempt.

More Wheelchair Buying Tips

Shop Around

Once you’ve established which chair is right for you, shop around. I can’t stress this enough, I know the guy in your local shop is lovely and understands your needs, but he’s there to sell you a chair at the end of the day.

I’m not saying you don’t buy a chair in your local shop but check online to see if you can get the same chair cheaper. If you can, go back to the shop and see if they can match the price or sweeten the deal some other way – it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Try Before You Buy

When Bridget was fitted for her chair, the guy looked at her, asked how heavy she was, and gave us a chair. We pushed it onto a flat shiny floor in the hospital corridor, and that was it. That was the total of finding the right chair.

In hindsight, that was ridiculous because Bridget would be spending hours and hours in the chair and on all different terrains. We should have borrowed or hired a chair for at least a week and given it an entire test drive in the places we visited.

If you are buying a chair, get outside the shop and test it properly, it’ll pay dividends in the long run. Five minutes, on a flat surface, in a shop does not indicate whether the chair will work for you, and you need much longer to get a feel for your new chair.

Are You Ready to Buy a Lightweight Wheelchair?

Lightweight Wheelchairs on Amazon

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