Manual wheelchair models have come a long way since their inception more than 300 years ago. Today, standard, rigid frame wheelchairs are no longer the norm. Instead, there are a diversity of manual models on the market, including folding frame wheelchairs, transport chairs, racing wheelchairs, lightweight models, beach wheelchairs, and more.
As its name suggests, a manual chair is propelled with human power. The two basic types of manually operated wheelchairs are rigid frame wheelchairs and folding frame wheelchairs.
Rigid Frame Wheelchairs
Rigid frame wheelchairs consist of a durable, fixed frame. The back of a rigid wheelchair folds down and its wheels have quick-releases axles for easy transport. However, the wheelchair's main frame does not fold.
Lightweight rigid frame wheelchairs are popular with wheelchair users who have good upper body mobility because they require minimal effort to operate and provide a wider range of movement and control. These lightweight mobility chairs also have a sportier appearance than standard, rigid frame wheelchairs.
In general, the more lightweight the wheelchair, the more expensive you can expect it to be. Low-cost wheelchairs are typically made with heavy steel and provide little adaptability. High-end wheelchairs are ultra-light and come with a variety of accessories, seating options, and customizable features.
Folding Frame Wheelchairs
Folding frame wheelchairs are collapsible and typically made of aluminum or titanium. These models can be transported and stored easily. They usually weigh more and are less durable than rigid frame wheelchairs. Yet, they may offer more flexibility in some circumstances.
For example, when an individual traverses uneven surfaces, the frame of a folding wheelchair may slightly adjust to accommodate the rough surface so all four wheels remain on the ground.
Other Types of Manual Chairs
There are manual chairs available to accommodate the needs of a variety of users. Heavy duty and over-sized rigid frame wheelchairs are designed for large and/or overweight users.
Aerodynamic, three-wheeled racing chairs are designed for use during racing events. Hemi manual chairs, which are lower to the floor than standard wheelchairs, can be propelled with both feet or with one hand and one foot.
Other specialty manual chairs include wheelchairs for children, all-terrain mobility chairs, standing wheelchairs, and power-assisted chairs for those with limited upper body mobility. For more information on wheelchair types, please click here.
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