Purchasing a wheelchair can vastly improve the quality of your life, enabling you to continue doing the things you enjoy and keeping your independence. Choosing the right wheelchair can enable you to socialise and go out with friends and family, but it is a very individual choice and worth taking time over. Before purchasing a wheelchair it is recommended that you have an assessment to make sure it is right for you.
Take a look at our Wheelchair Factsheet for frequently asked questions.
Choosing a Wheelchair
If you need a wheelchair, the main decisions you’ll have to make about your chair are:
- whether it will be self-propelled, pushed by someone else, or electric-powered
- for permanent or occasional use
- for indoor or outdoor use
- whether you need it to go in and out of a car
There are pros and cons for each type of chair, so the choice depends on your needs. There are a large variety of wheelchairs and scooters available, so expert independent advice is essential.
Some of the things to consider when choosing the right equipment are:
- Your physical ability. For example, if you’re unable to stand up, a scooter may be difficult to manage. Stability and balance may also affect what you can use.
- How the equipment will be used. For example, do you need to get upstairs or through narrow doorways?
- Practical considerations, such as access to a power point if the equipment needs to be charged up, or having a secure place to store the equipment when it's not in use.
Also take a look at the Review my Wheelchair website to see which wheelchairs are being independently recommended by wheelchair users all over the UK. You can also add your own personal review if you have a wheelchair you particularly like or dislike.
Choice of Wheelchair Design
The design of the chair affects how it can be used. Look out for:
- large rear wheels, which make wheelchairs easier to manoeuvre
- wheels positioned further forward on an adjustable axle, which require less effort to move the chair
- lightweight chairs that fold or can be dismantled easily if the wheelchair has to be lifted and transported regularly
- seat size, angle and style, as well as the position of the foot, back and arm rests – these should all be taken into account when considering the comfort of the chair
You should also bear in mind that standard wheelchairs can't be modified. "Active-user" wheelchairs are usually more expensive, but they have the advantage of being adjustable and adaptable.
If you need a wheelchair that’s pushed by someone else, it's still important to consider how easy it will be for them to use it. For example, can they lift it and put it in the boot of the car?
Before deciding on a specific style of wheelchair, it's a good idea to try it out around the house or on the local roads.
Take a look at these website pages providing helpful advice guides to choosing a wheelchair :
What are WAVs?
WAVs are Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles. They start as a standard vehicle which are then significantly altered by a specialist company, to allow the wheelchair user to remain in their wheelchair when the vehicle is moving.
- Ramps both manual and automatic
- Larger WAVs can be fitted with lifts
- Lowered floors to allow enough headroom for the wheelchair users
- Altered seating arrangements to allow space for the wheelchair
WAVs tend to cost more than standard cars, however you are able to lease a WAV through the Motability Scheme, the lease payments come directly from your higher rate mobility allowance. To read more about this option, go to our Motability Scheme page.
NHS Wheelchair Services
NHS wheelchair services offer assessments to determine what equipment you will be eligible for on the NHS. The criteria varies depending on where you live. You can be referred for an assessment by your doctor, hospital, consultant or an occupational therapist and will need to have an assessment to decide if you are eligible.
Videos and Beneficiary Experiences
Please watch the following short films for information on 3 different wheelchairs (Password is appletree):
We know that lots of you struggle to find or replace a wheelchair that you are really happy with, so we would love to hear from you if you have a recommendation about a chair or a helpful supplier.
"When I first had a powered chair as an adult I chose the Storm3, the reason for my choice of chair was the fact that it goes over most terrain (although it's not an all terrain wheelchair so would not go over soft sand or snow). It deals with pretty steep hills with ease, mileage is brilliant, it goes between 25 and 30 miles on one charge, most other powered chairs I have looked at so far, the max is 20 but the average is between 10 and 15, which in my opinion is not really great if you're a full time wheelchair user.
The Storm 3 is not available now as it's been upgraded to a Storm 4 TT (True Track), this basically means that the gears are brushless, so will last a lot longer. The cost of a Storm 4 TT is roughly £10k which is pretty reasonable and you get a lot for your money. The chair looks bigger than it actually is i.e. it will go through normal household doors no problem without having to get your doors widened (unless you live in a very old house where the doors are narrower than standard doors). I have tried various powered chairs over the years but have always come back to the Storm as it is so reliable and if serviced once a year, will easily last for 7 years before you need to replace it."
"My wheelchair is an Invacare TDX lowrider. It’ wonderful! My back pain (which was pretty much constant when sitting) has dramatically diminished. I don’t need to take extra painkillers if going out for the day. I’ve certainly put the chair through it’s paces. It’s extremely stable, even when up high, good on rough terrain, up hill and down dale, makes such a difference to what I can reach when I go shopping, and battery life does a full day with ease. I also have a specialist cushion - Qbitus. It's a high density gel cushion but low profile (just over 1” high). I’ve had no pressure related dry or sore skin since getting it. The combination of tilting chair and really good cushion has really improved my quality of life dramatically."