When a person looses the use of their legs, the wheelchair is the tool that assists in delivering some semblance of freedom and independence.
If a wheelchair is correctly designed and set up, it will aid posture and physical activity enabling a more active lifestyle.
Choosing a wheelchair is like choosing a pair of shoes, what feels comfortable for one person might be completely uncomfortable for another. Shoes are designed with a specific purpose in mind, most people would not go running in high heels or go dancing in gumboots! Wheelchairs are the same. It is critical that they ‘fit’ correctly, so as to avoid the creation of blisters or pressure areas.
Regardless of what we sit on, a wheelchair, armchair, office chair or car seat the body is always mechanically affected. When choosing a wheelchair we need to look at a stable support structure, posture, pressure distribution and freedom of movement and the choice must suit the specific needs.
A configurable wheelchair is one that can be adjusted, set up to suit the specific needs of the user. These adjustments would include: the height and angle of the backrest; the seat angle; the centre of gravity and the types of wheel and tires as well as their position in relation to the user. Each of these aspects will affect the position, posture and function of the user.
Price should never be the priority, as spending a little more upfront will often create savings in the long term. Remember, there is no perfect solution, there will always be compromise, one functional aspect will always affect another. Prioritise your needs to help you make the best choice.
So, how do you choose? The flow diagram at the bottom of this article highlights the various types of wheelchairs available that will best suit your needs. Rolling Inspiration will be running a series of Product Reviews, where we look at each of the categories in detail.
In this issue we are going to feature Manual All Terrain Wheelchairs and Beach WheelchairsALL TERRAIN WHEELCHAIRS
An All Terrain wheelchair (ATW) needs to be strong enough to cope with harsh environments. A low Centre of Gravity (COG) is essential to prevent the chair from falling over easily. It must be balanced so as to remove weight from the castors (as they tend to get stuck) and the front castors should be as big as possible so as not to get stuck in between small rocks and to glide over soft sand. The chair must be stable enough so that it will not tip over backwards when going up a steep incline or obstacle and a long wheelbase helps to create this balance.
Some designers have found that a three-wheel design with a single castor makes the chair more manageable- although it does come with the compromise of being less stable.
Many wheelchair suppliers fit extra wide wheels and castors onto a standard folding frame wheelchair to make it more manageable in a rural environment but it is our experience that folding frame chairs are not suited to rough environments.
This section focuses on manual chairs that have been specifically designed, or have specific features, to cope with rural conditions. In the future we shall look at mechanical and power wheelchairs and even one that runs on petrol!
An aluminium rigid frame makes it light and tough for rural use. It has adjustable footrests, seating and tension and a height adjustable backrest.
R 10 997.58 ex delivery
3-wheel Off-Road ATW
Rigid frame means extra strength. Three wheels are ideal for negotiating rough terrain as the long wheel base takes your weight off the castors allowing easy
manoeuvring. Tension and height adjustable backrest.
Retail: R 4560.00
Alto Out-Trail PFCAn interesting double push-wheel concept, with 5 inch wide rubber castors to assist with travelling over sand and muddy terrain.
It has a rigid aluminium frame and fully adjustable seating positions. The tension adjustable backrest is standard.
Retail: R 17 837.58 ex delivery
Whirlwind Rough Rider
This remarkably agile and robust rigid frame chair has been specifically designed for rough terrain and life in the developing world at an affordable price. It has a long wheel base with standard parts which can be easily replaced or repaired locally with a five-position rear wheel mount for balance options. The wide and flexible solid rubber castor wheels reduce them getting stuck. Gently cambered rear wheels give added sideways stability and easy pushing. Weight 16,7kg.
Retail: R3990.00WorldMade 3
Self-propelling 3-wheeler, for active outdoor lifestyles. Specifically designed for off-road, rough terrain, peri urban and rural areas. Various features can be customised to suit the individual user. Backrest folds down and wheels detach for transport.
Shonaquip Colours Tremor
This rugged, ultra-light, rigid frame design features “Fatso” rear wheels for easy use on sand, beach, mud, snow or any other off road surface. Any terrain - Any weather! Quick release rear axles, weight 18.6kg. Â± R45,600
This is just one chair from the Kinetix range of All Terrain Chairs. Their wheelchairs are custom designed and built for the specific needs of customers. All parts, except the wheels, are manufactured in-house and standard parts are normally kept in stock. +/- R12 000.00
Indicated for users requiring customisation, comprehensive postural support and attendant propelling.
Splits easily into two sections for easy transport.
Suited to urban, peri-urban and rural areas – ideal for level and uneven surfaces, soft sand,tracks and footpaths. Modular features offer full range of postural support options for trunk, head and limbs.
Adjustable head support. Adjustable tilt in space.
Most all terrain manual wheelchairs can be used on the beach but large, inflatable tyres - and larger than average front castors - are the easiest to propel over the soft sand. All of the beach chairs listed here are attendant propelled.BW 100 Beach Wheelchair
A rolling beach chair designed to float in water. Special floating armrests allow the passenger to recline in a comfortable position. As the floats are positioned far apart, this wheelchair is very stable. Users can keep their legs extended on the footrest or drop them onto the sand below. Â± R16 000.00
Joy on the Beach
Provides easy access to beach and swimming pools. Does not float but does allow you to enter the water whilst seated comfortably. The JoB easily folds up so it can be transported in smaller vehicles and has an optional
Indicated for short term use for users with basic to moderate seating needs. Passive, assisted or independent transfers in sitting and standing are possible. Front wheels remove for transporting and backrest folds down. Basic adjustments possible to optimise fit and comfort. Locally manufactured. Spares available locally.