The Pimp my Ride TV programme customises people's cars with funky paintwork, special seating, wheels, lights and cool accessories. One makeover even included a fish tank!

Shouldn't our wheelchairs also reflect our individuality?

Not only does it express you as a person but, as journalist John Hockenberry points out, having a pimped up wheelchair also encourages human interaction.

Standard wheelchair choices only allow for choices of colour, armrests and footrests and, if you are lucky, a choice in wheels or spokes. If you want your manual or power wheelchair to be a reflection of YOU as does Jacques Swart's of Langebaan, carry on reading!

Your Basic pimp

If you are replacing, upgrading or just feel like a face-lift, the basic pimp would include frame, cushions and tyres.

Cushion covers are probably the easiest way to pimp. The downside is that cushions are not very visible but they often have extra padding to make your ride really comfortable. Cushion suppliers offer covers in breathable Airtex, heavy-duty polyester mesh, towelling, leather, spandex, velvet and fleece with colours including grey, black and grey, fuchsia pink, royal blue, olive green, red, lilac, floral,peace symbols, hearts, skulls and even 1950's pin ups. Backrest cushions, like this one for bokke supporters are available from CE Mobility.

If you decide to haul out granny's sewing machine and go DIY, please remember that the fabric needs to be hardwearing and breathable so that you don't sit in a pool of sweat. Also add a thin foam layer or batting for extra comfort.

Paint Jobs!

Every colour under the sun, from fire engine red to lime green, is available for your frame, seat and seat backs.  Check with your supplier how outrageous you are able to go with their brand.  Most offer a respray and Radical Mobility can airbrush your custom designs.

DIY Bloggers write that it is really hard to strip the paint off by hand, spray cans don't give a high gloss finish and that the paint chips after a few months (so do not paint the hand rims). A durable finish that stays on your chair and not on yourhands requires powder coating or anodising (an electrochemical finish). Blogs recommend asking auto paint shops for help.

Vinyl stickers can be applied to the frame or seat back and can be changed with each season. Declare I'm only in it for the parking in June, become a wheelchair cowboy in July and plaster your ride with flowers in spring. If you're feeling creative you can also make up your own stickers and get them printed. Visit alocal stationary shop or craft store to investigate!

Even your tyres can be pimped. We only found tyres that fit 24" rims, but overseas you can get for smaller rims. MedOp and Chairman Industries supply Shox tyres and castors in a range of colours and sizes, however they note that the castors are soft and chip on rough surfaces such as gravel.

Blingedup Pimps

For the person with a little extra cash, or a birthday coming up you really should look at bling. Prices range from under R10 for fun reflectors to over R3000 for wheel lights. At the vanguard of development are overseas suppliers Cool Hub Caps and RehaDesign who emphasise fun for wheelchairs.  They do ship to South Africa,but parcels have occasionally disappeared en route.

For wheels you can select colourful spoke guards that stop fingers, and pets, from getting caught in the spokes. Spoke guards come with different size and connector options and available locally from GH Medical and CE Mobility.

Reflectors can be fun and funky, especially for nights out. Decal types can be stuck just about anywhere on your chair and RehaDesigns Wheels on Fire reflectors weigh very little and will fit standard spokes of up to 2mm in diameter.

Reflective decals in a variety of shapes and sizes can be found at local stationary shops and Crazy stores, and Radical Mobility.

Lights can be functional, like a car headlight, or decorative glowing lights. They can be lightweight and clip onto the seat or frame. You can even have flashing castors- like the flashing lights in rollerblades.

To light up your chair and increase it's visibility from as little as R9.00 visit your localcamping or outdoor shop, they have neon reflectors; rechargeable, flashing LEDlights and glow-in-the-dark stuff that only requires one hour to recharge and will glow for up to 10 hours!

Bicycle shops have great headlamps and LEDs that clamp on frames and various reflectors thatattach to spokes to increase visibility and look awesome.

Looking for ideas. Go to www.squidoo.com/PimpMyWheelchair.

All Pimped Out

Just won the Lotto? Up your style with trispoke X Core rear wheels, aluminium billets, or sporty, colourful spinergy wheels from CE Mobility, Chairman Industries, GH Medical and Medop.

Instead of saying 'my other ride is a Porsche' beautifully blinged, brand new wheelchairs are available, if you look hard enough, such as Colours Shock Blade suspension wheelchair.

Finding a Pimp

Google pimp my wheelchair  and you will be astounded at the options. Most of them are from overseas but there is not usually a problem getting the items shipped to you. Amazon had over 4000 wheelchair accessories when we looked!

On the whole the popular products are functional rather than funky. In the Top 100 were cushions, lumbar supports, back rest bags, armrest covers, cup holders, lap desks, brake extensions, safety flags and cargo carriers (nifty webbing to fit under the seat). If you are considering an Amazon product, please read their views before you splash out your hard earned Rands. EBay also has a range of online products but no product reviews. Most South African sites don't have online shopping and don't show all their great products, so do phone them and ask.

We would like to thank Chairman Industries, CE Mobility, GH Medical, MedOp and Radical Mobility for assisting us with feedback. Thanks also to RehaDesigns (Medservices Europe) and Colours for their input.

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