If someone has been committed to a wheelchair it is likely that they are going to be spending a great deal of time in the chair, thus it is very important to make sure that you choose the right chair. Bear in mind that the individual who will be using the chair should be permitted to make the final decision. Due to the enormity of this transition it is integral that you do not deny them control of their situation. In many instances the individual may feel powerless as they have to rely on a chair for movement; it is in your interest to enable the individual to retain a sense of power. The individual should feel empowered by the freedom a wheelchair provides.
Five Key Questions
When selecting a chair it is important to ask yourself five key questions that will enable you to make the right chair for yourself and the person who will be utilising the chair.
1. How to finance the purchase of a wheelchair?
Even manual wheelchairs can be an expensive purchase so it is necessary to budget for the expenditure. In some instances the cost of the wheelchair may be covered by the user’s health insurance of may be available via the NHS for British readers. Setting a budget will set the standard for progressing forward.
2. How easy is the chair to transport?
When shopping for a wheelchair it is easy to get distracted by the comfort and features a chair provides and forget the vital aspect of transport. For a wheelchair to be of any use it must be easily movable in terms of size and weight. Most chairs will fold to quite a small size and still provide the comfort required. If the individual is incapable of being transferred to a car seat it may be worthwhile considering purchasing a vehicle capable of housing an erect wheelchair. This will of course provide you with much more freedom in your choice of chair.
3. Powered or Unpowered?
Once you have decided how much space you can allot to the transportation of the chair you can decide whether an unpowered or powered wheelchair would be more appropriate. A power assisted wheelchair may be a heavy and bulky device but it does allow an unprecedented level of freedom to the individual in control of it. The chair may enable them to engage in activities they once enjoyed completely independent of other family members. A manual attendant-propelled wheelchair on the other hand requires assistance from other family members or carer to fold and transport the chair. A self-propelled chair requires more physical strength but does allow the individual greater freedom.
4. What features are necessary?
Interestingly there are a variety of accessories that can make the experience of a wheelchair more pleasurable for the individual. These include arm and foots rests, walking stick holders, gloves and weather protection.
5. Is the user happy with it?
Finally is the person who is going to be using the wheelchair happy with it? Sometimes one can become too focused on the price and physical factors to remember the importance of the actual user’s opinions.
A useful framework for sorting through a vast range of options is the competitive factors framework.
- Order Qualifiers – First you consider the essential features an item must have to be considered.
- Order Winners – Next you consider the key factors that make that item the one!
- Less Relevant Factors – From your order winners you pick the item that is the most relevant dismissing the less relevant options.
The choice of chair is highly unique to the situation however it is important to logically think through the available options.