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Best Practices For Wheelchair Safety And Selection

Aug 17, 2007
There are many things to consider before you purchase a wheelchair. Regardless of whether you want a manual or powered chair, consider the following:

1. Folding or rigid frames?

On manual chairs, folding frames are the usual conventional type having an X brace in the center allowing the frame to be folded sideways. Folding is simple, but a chair of this type tends to be bulky as well as quite heavy. New versions of lighter materials are now available, but regardless of this point because folding frames involve many parts, it is heavy compared to a rigid frame. Rigid frame joints are welded and a lightweight aluminum material is used, enabling one to transfer the wheelchair into the car without help.

2. It's all about comfort: get the footrest angled perfectly

An angle footrest is measured from the horizontal or is regarded from the side, whereas tapered footrests are regarded from the front, and joins both feet at the bottom, providing more clearance when turning. However, if you have limited hip and knee joint flexibility, this can be uncomfortable.

3. Don't overlook the handrim

Note that the overall diameter of a handrim will affect its propulsion. This means that having a large diameter climbs will be easier and with a diameter that is much smaller, it brings about a lot of speed on a flat surface.

4. It's all about the wheels

While spoked wheels are lighter, they require extra maintenance with continued use. Composite wheels on the other hand usually wear out at the bearing escalations. Then, the zero camber gives a slender wheelchair measurement. When the camber is increased, the measurement at the wheel's botton is also increased and the measurement at the top is decreased, providing steadiness and turning can be done with ease.

5. Wheel locks

These are of two types namely the under-seat and the side mounted. The side mounted type provides easy operation, though one has to be careful when pushing as thumbs can easily be caught in the wheel lock. Whereas the under-seat type can pas up to this problem, it is much difficult to use since it calls for reaching under the seat.

6. Front and back balance

Check the balance well - as if the rear wheels are very much far forward to the frame, the user can tip backwards. Also, the chair will be hard to push if the wheels are put too far backwards.

Wheelchair safety measures:

- Always make sure that your wheelchair is in good condition all the time.
- When using a power wheelchair, be certain to turn the power off when leaving it at a slope or inclined place.
- When pushing a patient, inform her first before you move the wheelchair.
- When not moving, use brakes.
- Do not attempt to go up or to go down on steep slopes.
- When pushing a patient on a manual wheelchair, be sure that your speed should not exceed that of brisk walking.
- When transferring a patient to a wheelchair, be sure to raise the footplates before doing so. Then lower the footplates after and place the patient's feet onto the footplates.
- Avoid passing through grassy or pebbled plains.
- When crossing the street, be sure to stop, look and listen.

Safety on power wheelchairs:

- Choose a type with mechanical brakes that can be released or set by the user.
- For outdoor use, a power wheelchair must have power large wheels at the front and never free swinging casters.
- For the user with an impaired hand or arm, install an orthotic elbow or arm support so as to aid the hand when operating the controls.
- Shut off breaking sensors can detect when a wheelchair is moving out of control and quickly shut off the power.
- Mechanical brakes can bet set by the user with normal hand functions.
- Check the batteries before you go out that they are fully charged, every time.
- Always keep a cell phone handy. You'll never know emergencies might happen.
- A power wheelchair has many of the same parts as a car. Have it checked by a professional every three months for safety, and check it daily yourself.

Are you at risk?

1. Paraplegics
Fit & active individuals are on the average the safest users of a manual, power-assisted, and fully powered wheelchair. They are at very low risk.

2. Amputees
Individuals with missing arms or legs, having active upper bodies are generally safe power wheelchair users. Although it depends on the type of control device that is used, but when used and executed properly, they are at low risk.

3. People having weak upper bodies like people with Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson Disease, and many other conditions
A standard joystick is used to maneuver power wheelchairs. These disorders cause slowed reflexes, impaired eyesight, or impaired judgment. All must be carefully screened for their functional insufficiency. They are at moderate risk.

4. Individuals with little or no upper body movement
Individuals who uses a mouth a puff & sip breathe control, mouth joystick, or gyroscopic (inertial) wheelchair controls. They are at high risk.

5. Paralyzed individuals and children.
Children as well as very small adults that are using special seats need a power wheelchair, mostly with significantly paralyzed bodies. Depending on the mechanical operation, the individual's ailment, and personalized progress and safety instruction, these individuals are at high risk.
About the Author
For more great wheelchair related articles and resources check out http://wheelchair.goldenhq.com
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